Prigozhin stopped “punishing” mercenaries with executions against the backdrop of heavy losses – captured “Wagnerians”

Anastasia Pechenyuk17:39, 23.02.23

The mercenaries attributed the cessation of “zeroing” to the fact that “Wagner” lost a shocking number of fighters in battle.

“Wagner” mercenaries, who were captured by Ukraine , told how the policy of the Russian PMC regarding executions for refusing to fight had changed. 

In an interview with The Washington Post , front-line mercenaries said the killing policy had weakened in recent weeks. They attributed this to the fact that “Wagner” lost a shocking number of soldiers in battle. 

The mercenaries – 30-year-old Ilya and 35-year-old Mykhailo – were captured by Ukrainians in the northern part of Bakhmut. Both said they were recruited while serving sentences in Russian colonies for causing death while intoxicated. 

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Mykhailo, a father of four children, beat his wife to death in a drunken state during a fight at his home near Chita. Ilya, a father of two children from the Smolensk region, drove a motorcycle drunk and killed his brother-passenger.

The mercenaries said that they were warned by the PMC that anyone who tried to escape from the front would be “zeroed out” (that’s what they call executions in “Wagner”). They also talked about the practice of intimidation: “Wagner” officers showed their poorly trained soldiers videos in which mercenaries were broken, hanged, or beaten to death. 

One of the mercenaries says he witnessed his friend being taken to be shot after he spoke out against the deployment. The captured “Wagneri” claim that sometimes hundreds of fighters were “zeroed out” in the Bakhmut direction in a day. 

According to them, the situation was radically changed by the shocking losses of the PVC. Ilyi says that in 72 hours during the attempted assault on the village of Chervona Hora near Bakhmut, 400 “Wagnerians” were eliminated, and their corpses were simply left lying in the snow. Violators of the rules – deserters, those who took alcohol or drugs – stopped being killed against the backdrop of heavy losses, say the mercenaries.

“Reset” has been canceled. Probably because there were not enough people,” Mykhailo said. 

As for the motivation to go to war, Ilya confirmed the information previously voiced by other “Wagnerians”: that in six months of “service” they promised to have their criminal record expunged, and for participating in hostilities – a salary ($1,300 per month for an infantryman, $1,200 in bonuses for special successes), which in the end no one received. Mykhailo also confirmed that the prisoners were not forced to fight – it was their personal choice.

Wagner’s PMK participation in the war against Ukraine 

Five months into the full-scale war waged by Russia against Ukraine, the aggressor country, suffering significant losses, began recruiting prisoners from Russian colonies to participate in hostilities. After little or no training, the prisoners were sent to the front as part of the “Wagner” PMC. Its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who previously hid his connection with the military company, personally engaged in recruitment. 

The prisoners themselves said that they were lured by high salaries for participation in the war and amnesty – in six months at the front, they promised to write off their criminal records. At the same time, Prigozhin warned potential mercenaries that by signing up for the PMK, they were making a final decision to fight against Ukraine, and “those who turn back will be shot on the spot.” Subsequently, the PMC published videos of the executions of its mercenaries, who were “guilty”. Andriy Medvedev, a “Wagnerian” who fled to Norway, also spoke about this practice, claiming that he knew of 10 incidents.

Recruiting of prisoners to the PMC stopped in February 2023, Prigozhin claimed that the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation simply deprived him of such an opportunity . There is no information on how many prisoners were recruited. According to various estimates, it is about 40-50 thousand people. It is also known that by the end of autumn the prisoners  had become the main force of “Wagner”. 

PVK units, consisting of recruited prisoners, suffered and continue to suffer significant losses. The mercenaries, who escaped or were captured, complained about the poor supply before, and the day before it became known that the commander of the Russian army in Ukraine, Valery Gerasimov, gave the order to completely stop the supply of weapons to “Wagner”. After Prigozhin complained about the lack of ammunition and declared against the mountain of corpses of his mercenaries that the number of dead could have been “five times less if it were not for the “shell famine”, the supply of ammunition was resumed. 

(c)UNIAN 2023


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