Bombing of Putin’s Most Feared Fighters Infuriates Russia

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The Russian mercenaries hailed by their leader as the most skilled and experienced soldiers in the war against Ukraine have gotten themselves blown up over the weekend.

Pro-Kremlin Russian media channels were the first to reveal the strike Sunday on a hotel in the occupied Luhansk region, furiously noting that “the enemy used HIMARS to hit the hotel in Kadiivka where Wagner fighters were located.”

Photos showed the building, a hotel called “Zhdanov’s Guest House,” blown to smithereens, though no details were immediately given on how many Wagner fighters were killed. Russian state-run media was largely mum on the whole affair (with the exception of a Kremlin-friendly tabloid saying the site had been targeted because the U.S. knew Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin frequented the private army’s headquarters there.)

Ukrainian authorities say the Russian military is “carefully concealing” its losses in the strike. Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, confirmed the strike and quipped on Telegram that “many” Wagner mercenaries would undoubtedly be absent for their next roll call.

On Tuesday, Haidai issued a statement saying “hundreds” of Wagnerites have been killed before reaching the frontline in the last week and a half, either by “‘explosions’ caused by smoking in their headquarters or their barracks.”

Meanwhile, Bild reported Tuesday that a selfie taken in front of the hotel in Kadiivka may have alerted Ukraine’s military to the Wagner fighters’ whereabouts and sealed their fate. Russian media channels circulated the photo, speculating that the Russian soldier shown grinning in front of “Zhdanov’s Guest House” was none other than Pavel Prigozhin, the son of the Wagner founder, who previously said his son was serving in the ranks of the private army.

It was not immediately clear when the selfie was taken, and Prigozhin himself denied that his son had been impacted by the HIMARS strike. The Daily Beast has not independently verified the authenticity of the photo and its potential links to the bombing.

“Don’t worry, my son is fine,” the Putin-friendly businessman said in a statement Sunday.

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