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Human rights activist releases testimony from two Wagner Group mercenaries who describe executing Ukrainian civilians, young and old

Source: Meduza
Content warning: The following story contains descriptions of war atrocities.

The human rights activist behind the project, Vladimir Osechkin, has released recorded video calls with two former Russian prisoners who fought in Ukraine as commanding officers with the Wagner Group paramilitary cartel. In the conversations, Azamat Uldarov and Alexey Savichev describe numerous atrocities they say they committed against civilians and fellow mercenaries. (At the time of this writing, there is no independent verification that the events they describe actually occurred.)

Savichev confessed to numerous killings, like ordering the execution of 70 prisoner recruits for refusing to obey orders in the battlefield. He also said he carried out orders this January in Bakhmut to throw more than two dozen grenades into a pit filled with dead and wounded Ukrainians and Russians, before dousing the remains of roughly 60 people with gasoline and burning their bodies. Additionally, Savichev says he killed 10 teenagers and more than 20 unarmed Ukrainians on the orders of his superiors, including instructions to “cleanse” a residential building by killing everyone inside.

Uldarov, meanwhile, told Osechkin that he murdered children in Soledar and Bakhmut, saying he and his men were ordered to “eliminate everyone — men, women, elderly people, and children.” Uldarov even described firing a second bullet (an “insurance shot”) at a “five- or six-year-old girl” to ensure her death.

Both Uldarov and Savichev said that Wagner Group has suffered heavy losses in Ukraine. They also mentioned that mercenaries risk being murdered if they speak to journalists or disclose information about combat operations, leaving it unclear why these two men decided to share their stories with (Vladimir Osechkin suggested to Meduza that Uldarov and Savichev are struggling with a guilty conscience.)

Responding to the videos published by Osechkin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on social media, “Confession is not enough. There must be a punishment. Tough and fair. And it will definitely be.”

Evgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, also commented on the testimonies of Uldarov and Savichev, stating through his spokespeople on Telegram that his soldiers do not execute civilians because it’s unnecessary and counterproductive. “After all, we went there [to Ukraine] to save them from the regime they were under,” claimed Prigozhin.

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