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In new interview, Russian POW and former Wagner fighter recounts recruitment process and pleads not to be swapped
In a new interview with Ukrainian journalist Yury Butusov, Russian POW and convict Alexander Bolchev recounts joining the war in Ukraine after being recruited by PMC Wagner.
According to Bolchev, the former convicts fighting with the Wagner Group are told by their superiors that they will be shot if they retreat on the battlefield. He also tells Butusov during the interview that he does not want to be returned to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange.
“I don’t want [to be exchanged], because they’ll kill me. I know they’ll kill me. Please, don’t trade me,” Bolchev says.
Notably, Bolchev claims not to know the story of Yevgeny Nuzhin, a POW and former Wagner fighter who was shown being murdered with a sledgehammer on video in November after he was traded back to Russia as part of a prisoner swap.
Journalists from the independent Russian outlet Verstka contacted Bolchev’s sister. She confirmed his identity and said that Bolchev previously told her that he was imprisoned after “snatching a sheep.”
According to online court records, Bolchev was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in 2020 for stealing a six-month-old lamb (though records also mention attempted car theft and breaking and entering). The court valued the damage at 4,000 rubles (about $64). In the interview with Butusov, Bolchev explains that he stole the animal because there was a job shortage in his village and he needed to eat.
In September 2022, Bolchev had a little over a year left to serve. He told Butusov that he joined PMC Wagner because he was promised that he would be granted amnesty and that the conviction would be expunged from his record, making it easier for him to get a job later.
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