Two captured Russian Wagner mercenaries told the British newspaper Mirror how they signed up for the frontlines in Ukraine after being convinced they were at war with the West.
One of Russian president Putin’s close allies, Wagner private military group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, recruited the mercenaries. A convicted killer and a thug sentenced for brawling were both in prison.
Two Wagner mercenaries interviewed by The Mirror
Wagner mercenaries’ horrifying stories, disclosed in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror, were obtained during negotiations with Ukrainian authorities ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion on February 24.
It is claimed that this is the first time a British newspaper has interviewed detained Wagner Group mercenaries.
Both Russian mercenaries wore balaclavas for their protection, as their Ukrainian military agreed to keep their identities hidden.
Convicted murderer who stabbed a Chechen in a bar brawl
Convicted murderer Viktor, a married father of two from the Stavropolsky district of Kavkaz in southeast Russia, was imprisoned for fatally stabbing a Chechen in a bar brawl.
The mercenary joined the Wagner group in his ninth year of a 20-year sentence. Wagner’s owner Prigozhin flew to his penal colony jail to recruit fighters.
“We were told other nations, including Britain, were involved in the war in Ukraine and that we were defending Russia against international terrorists,” the 32-year-old told the journalists.
Read on this topic in our article Africa – Russia: friendship for convenience – grain and military mercenaries.
“I had murdered a man and was in the ninth year of my sentence. He was in a club with a group of Muslims and Chechens when a knife fight broke out. I killed him. (…) I met Yevgeny Prizoghin, and 200 of us agreed to join the Wagner group in exchange for a fresh start, money, and the ability to find work after leaving Ukraine.”
“With a criminal record, I couldn’t get a job, and I felt I had no choice but to join Wagner, even though it took me a week to decide”, the prisoner of war said.
Viktor said his experience was “regrettable” but an unavoidable setback.
Joining Russia’s mercenary organization Wagner guaranteed him $2600 per month and the deletion of his criminal record.
After signing up in September 2022, he was sent to Rostov, near Ukraine, and then to Luhansk, in Donbas, within Ukraine, together with 200 other inmates from his prison.
Convict from Samara recruited by Wagner for war in Ukraine
Anatoliy, a 26-year-old car technician from Samara in central Russia, was jailed and got a three-year and six-month term for brawling. As Prizoghin came into his prison looking for recruits, he had 18 months left on his term.
“Putin’s cook” Prigozhin recruited mercenaries in Russian prisons
Prigozhin, imprisoned for nine months for crimes, made a fortune cooking for Putin’s major Kremlin social gatherings.
“I noticed a distinction between the Wagner and the regular Army. We conducted full-scale attacks, and I was involved in five major engagements. The Wagner group was always one step ahead of the Army”, he exclaimed with astonishing pride.
Ukrainian forces captured Anatoliy after he and his Wagner mates were ordered into a battle in Donbas against the Ukrainian soldiers.
He acknowledged that Ukrainian forces severely outperformed Wagner fighters in terms of military tactics.
“First, a sniper killed ten of my fellow troops. Another guy was hurt, so I offered him first aid. The Wagner group sent in another group of ten troops, and the sniper killed five. And finally, I was alone and surrounded by Ukrainian forces”, he said.
Despite Wagner Group’s horrible history of crimes against people involving rape, torture and murder, even recruiting sex attackers, the mercenary asserts that he did not observe such cases.
Thousands of Wagner mercenaries killed in the Ukraine war
Almost 1,000 of the 5,000 Wagner Group fighters who signed up for Ukraine were killed within weeks. It is thought that up to 50,000 were dispatched in total.
They underwent six weeks of “hard training” with assault rifles, machine guns, mines, rocket-propelled grenades, and sniper rifles.
Following training, they were deployed into war in assault squads, rapidly realizing they had been duped.
Even Viktor’s time in one of Russia’s “strict regime penal colonies,” where he was subjected to daily knife fights, beatings, and even killings, had not prepared him for war. “It was frightening,” he stated. In battle, I saw limbs and legs being shot off. It was terrifying and shocking. Then a thousand of us were massacred.”
Sergey was injured in the back and neck by shrapnel after only four “battles” in Donbas. The Ukrainian military captured him as he lay dying.
“I know I killed Ukrainian soldiers, but I don’t know how many. When we joined, we were shown a movie claiming we would be killed if captured. I was not beaten, and the Ukrainians treated me kindly. I don’t have anything against them”, he claims.
Both Wagner mercenaries interviewed by the British journalists were clothed in military uniform. Considering these two men’s atrocious backgrounds, Ukrainian officials ordered extra precautions to prevent them from being identified by Wagner hit squads.
In December, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration announced introducing new restrictions on the export of technology for the Russian armed formation “Wagner Group.” The main goal is to further cut off supplies to the private military company because of its role in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The time has come to see Wagner militants and those who run the military group hold responsibility for the crimes that they committed in Africa, Ukraine, Syria, and other countries.