Brutal footage released by Ukraine allegedly shows Wagner Group fighters beating their commander with shovels in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, where the paramilitary group has focused its efforts for the past six months.
The video, shot from a Ukrainian drone by the Seneka Special Platoon earlier this week, was released on Ukrainian social media channels Monday. It appears to show four Wagner Group fighters dragging their commander through the war-torn region, holding him by the arms and legs.
Three of the men are seen in another part of the clip hitting him with what appear to be either shovels or hammers.
Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has hired tens of thousands of Russian convicts to take part in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, promising them commuted sentences and cash inducements.
Its fighters have led conventional Russian troops in Bakhmut for months, but they are slowly being replaced as the Wagner group fails to make any significant advances in the area.
Olga Romanova, head of Russia Behind Bars, a charity which defends the rights of prisoners, said in late January that of the 50,000 convicts recruited by the Wagner group, 40,000 are dead or missing, and only 10,000 are still fighting. in Ukraine.
Russian lawyer Yana Gelmel told independent Russian media Agentstvo in a report on Wednesday that far fewer convicts voluntarily agree to join the Wagner Group compared to the summer and fall months of 2022, as convicts learn of the rate of high mortality in war.
Independent Russian media outlet Mediazona, based in Latvia, reported on Monday that the Wagner Group was short of manpower after battles for Bakhmut and the nearby salt-mining town of Soledar. He said Prigozhin struggled to find new recruits in Russian prisons.
One element of Prigozhin’s struggle to recruit new convicts for Putin’s war may be the treatment of soldiers who agree to fight.
The Wagner group hit the headlines in November after the execution of Evgeny Nuzhin, a 55-year-old former Russian convict recruited in July. He gave a series of interviews after his capture by Ukrainian forces in September, in which he criticized Russian officials and said he wanted to switch sides.
Footage of his murder was posted by Wagner-linked Telegram channel Gray Zone. It showed an unidentified man hitting Nuzhin with a mace.
Prigozhin said the footage was “excellent directorial work that can be watched in one sitting.”
Vladimir Osechkin, a Russian human rights activist and head of the anti-corruption project gulagu.net, a prisoners’ rights group, previously said Newsweek that executions and torture are common practice within the Wagner group and that many were killed for refusing to take part in the war.
“Russian instructors and commanders of the Wagner Group have killed prisoners who entered the war but refused to participate. In the past three to four months there have been systematic killings and torture of people who refuse the command of the group,” Osechkin said.
“For example, if a new group of 200 to 400 prisoners enters a training center in Ukraine, then the Wagner group creates a large meeting of ex-prisoners. After that, there is a transfer, and they kill ex-prisoners. -prisoners – not of this new group, but of the group that recently entered a rift.”
“For example, some people in this party – if they refused to participate in the war after seeing what was happening in reality, and if they don’t want to participate and say they want to go back to prison – they take a few of these people, and the Wagner Group instructors and commanders kill them,” he said.
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