War in Ukraine Two Russians presented as former Wagners claim

War in Ukraine: Two Russians presented as former Wagners claim to have executed minors and civilians

The Russian project Gulagu.net broadcast the testimonies of two men presented as former fighters of the paramilitary group. They claim to have committed numerous abuses and are now invoking threats against them.

These rare documents, if authenticated, would further attest to the cruelty of Wagner’s mercenaries. The Gulagu.net project, which denounces corruption and torture in Russian prisons, says it collected testimonies published on YouTube (in Russian) by two former commanders of the paramilitary group that operated in Ukraine. During these phone interviews, Azamat Ouldarov and Alexeï Savichev explain that they killed civilians, including minors, during “clean-up” missions in Donbass. Those talks, which were released on Monday April 17, were recorded for a whole week, told franceinfo the NGO’s founder Vladimir Ossetchkine, an anti-Kremlin who is now a political refugee in France.

The two men are currently in Russia after spending six months at the front. Like many Wagner fighters, Gulagu.net says, these two men were recruited from prison after receiving presidential pardons in August and September respectively. Franceinfo was not able to independently verify the identities of these witnesses, but the American channel CNN (in English) obtained Russian documents proving that two men with those names were released on those days. These texts were also published (in Russian) by Gulagu.net.

Shells in a pit full of corpses

Alexei Savichev first says he was ordered to throw F-1 shells into a pit where the bodies of Ukrainians and Russians, wounded and dead, were heaped before dousing the remains with gasoline. He says these facts happened between a barracks and the Bakhmout cannery between January 19th and 20th. “Without the complicity of Putin and [Evguéni] prigozhin, [Azamat Ouldarov et Alexeï Savichev] The Gulagu association comments that prisoners in prison administration colonies have been served. But the Russian authorities sent them to war after teaching them to kill.”

Alexei Savichev also claims to have taken part in the execution of about twenty unarmed Ukrainians, including about ten teenagers, the following month after returning from a POW exchange. He also explains that 70 former Russian prisoners who refused to obey orders were shot dead before his eyes.

Azamat Ouldarov, visibly drunk during these interviews, claims to have shot a 5-year-old girl.

“There was an order to clean up everyone, to remove everything that was in the way.”

Asamat Uldarov

at Gulagu.net

According to him, the mercenaries were tasked with executing everyone in Soledar and Bakhmout, the scenes of the most violent clashes in Donbass. “Prigozhin told us not to let anyone out.” He also claims that his group killed 300 to 400 civilians in the basement of a building in Bakhmout, including dozens of children.

These testimonies were quickly commented on in Kiev. “These simple confessions are not enough,” he wrote on twitter (in English) Andriï Yermak, Head of the Office of the President. “There has to be punishment. Hard and fair. And there certainly will be.” “We had that before heard information about possible killings by ‘Wagners’ of civilians, youth and very young children in February-March 2023 in Soledar and Bakhmout,” said Serhiï Cherevaty, spokesman for the Eastern Command of the Ukrainian Army, in an interview with the BBC’s Ukrainian version (in Ukrainian).

Kyiv is launching an investigation

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has launched an investigation into “violation of the laws and customs of war.” “It is likely that an official request to hand over our archives will reach us,” comments Vladimir Ossetchkine. However, the latter adds that the Russian Investigative Committee also “has a duty to launch an investigation into Yevgeny Prigoyine and his entourage”, if only to verify the cases of murders of former Russian prisoners mentioned by Alexei Savichev.

In another video released Tuesday, April 18, the two witnesses from Gulagu.net report ongoing threats against them. But a little later, Azamat Ouldarov reappears this time in the content of the Russian propaganda agency RIA FAN, which is controlled by Yevgeny Prigojine. He changes his tone and accuses Vladimir Ossetchkine of blackmailing him in exchange for his testimony. However, this Wagnerian foray was not enough to erase the allegations. Gulagu.net published a new video (in Russian) of Uldarov late Wednesday evening. The ex-combatant decides to return to the charge and repeats his original version, which he fully accepts.

“If something happens to them, Yevgeny Prigojine will be responsible for their death.”

Meanwhile, contacted by the media Viorstka (in Russian), Alexeï Savichev claimed to have received 10,000 rubles (about 110 euros) from Gulagu, without responding to his statement. “My informant explained to me that Savichev needed money to rent a room,” replies Vladimir Ossechkine. A volunteer from Gulagu transferred this money to the informant, who played the role of intermediary. In an interview with the Guardian, Alexei Savichev also renewed his accusations: “We also tortured soldiers, there were no rules.”

Charge against Prigojine for “death threats”

Since the first video was broadcast on Monday, Yevgeny Prigojine has carried out numerous ad hominem attacks on Telegram (in Russian) against Vladimir Ossetchkine and Gulagu.net. He first assured that his paramilitary group had never fired on civilians, considering such an option “useless”. before calling the NGO’s founder “insane” and “degenerate” and calling for his swift “arrest”. Sign of some nervousness? “In the eyes of Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Ossetchkine believes that Yevgeny Prigoyine’s biggest mistake is not having killed civilians. It is to testify some of his fighters.”

Gulagu.net had already documented Wagner’s recruitment of prisoners in the fall of last year. In January, he also circulated the testimony of a former Wagner fighter who had fled to Norway and who also spoke out about the abuses committed by the paramilitary group.

>> “Open your eyes!” The message of a veteran of the Wagner militia to Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Ossetchkine does not consider Prigojine’s call to be trivial. “When he talks about arrest, he actually instructs his agents to kidnap me, put me in a safe and send me back to Moscow to punish me,” responds the founder of Gulagu.net. “Maybe with a sledgehammer?” he adds, alluding to Wagner’s sinister trademark. The Russian opponent went to a French police station on Wednesday afternoon to close a complaint about “death threats” filed last week. Today he speaks of “a difficult situation”.