The Russian mercenary organization Wagner plans to recruit about 30,000 new fighters until mid-May, as its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said today.

In an audio message on Telegram, Prigozhin, who said last week that Wagner recruitment centers had been opened in 42 Russian cities, added today that they were recruiting 500 to 800 people on average every day.

Prigozhin did not provide evidence to support those numbers, which Reuters was unable to independently confirm.

The group’s men have suffered heavy casualties while leading Russian efforts to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which has been resisted since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of Ukraine’s year-old war.

In January, the US estimated that Wagner has about 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts whom Prigozhin recruited from Russian prisons with the promise of pardons if they survived six months.

Ukrainian officials say about 30,000 of the group’s fighters have deserted, been killed or wounded — a number that cannot be independently ascertained.

Prigozhin says that recruitment is going better than expected and that the volunteers are in better physical condition than the prisoners who were previously enlisted.