Junkie soldiers, public executions and cannon fodder. Three prisoners recruited by the Wagner group went to the front for Russia. Arrested by the Ukraine, they now describe the horror they experienced in the mercenary group.
Actually, they were prisoners in Russia. But they were lured. You were promised freedom. They would only have to work as mercenaries for the Wagner group, just “support” the war in Ukraine. Not more. But like many others before them, the three prisoners ended up on the front lines. Untrained and poorly equipped, they also fought in Soledar – and were arrested by the Ukrainian army.
The independent Russian telegram channel “We can explain” has now published reports in which the arrested Russian prisoners describe their extraordinarily brutal experiences in Wagner’s service. “We can explain” are audio recordings of the interrogated Russian recruits.
Vereshchagin was in prison in Russia for a double murder. He should serve 17 years. He and other men from his penal colony were recruited into his mercenary group by “Putin’s cook” Yevgeny Prigozhin. They were promised that there would be freedom and work for everyone, for example digging or carrying the wounded. But the reality was very different, says Wereshtschagin.
Together with other, newly recruited, ex-inmates, they were taken to a children’s camp in the Luhansk region. However, no organized army awaited them there. “There were no units. No companies. No formation,” explains Vereshchagin. “They dumped us and said: ‘You’re not Wagner. you are a project Don’t even use your own name because you’re just a project’.”
Wereschtschagin and his comrades received only marginal training. They were shown how to service a Kalashnikov, that’s all. Then they were taken to abandoned houses to defend them. They had nothing but the assault rifle. Then in December they were shipped to Soledar – with orders not to leave their posts. “If you move backwards, you’re screwed. We’re just going forward,” they were told. Vereshchagin therefore only went further to the battles at the front. Otherwise they would have finished him off, he says.
Again he and his comrades should guard abandoned houses. At some point, however, they had enough. They decided to hand themselves over to the Ukrainians. They crawled to the Ukrainian positions, heard shots and surrendered.
Alexander Drozdov was also personally recruited by Prigozhin. He appealed to Vologda inmates to defend Russia from “occupiers and fascists.” Don’t allow enemies to cross Russian borders. However, according to Drozdov, not all of the volunteers were accepted by Prigozhin. Drozdov said they left the raped prisoners behind because they had to be taken away separately.
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In the same children’s camp as Vereshchagin in Luhansk, Drozdov and his comrades received two-week training, an automatic rifle with four magazines and gun oil. But they too were not given any additional equipment such as bulletproof vests, grenades or radios.
Then, when they were sent to the front, they suffered many casualties at the hands of the Ukrainians. They were cold, starving and poorly cared for. Drozdow explains that three rations of food were brought to them for three days. Then no one came. There was no water either. They were only ordered to attack Ukrainian positions. However, they were themselves attacked by Russian soldiers.
“We were ordered to take charge. But we were constantly being fired upon by Russian soldiers. When we explained that we belong to them, they just asked who the hell we are,” says Drozdov. According to him, the convicts were given different uniforms than the other Wagner mercenaries.
Eventually, Drozdov and his comrades were given the task of providing cover for the Wagner stormtroopers. “Stormtroopers are very different from ordinary mercenaries, they’re crazy as hell, they just keep going. They are also convicts, but they are mostly junkies,” explains Drozdov.
He spoke to them that they were completely insane. They are called “Rexes” and would hardly be older than 18 years. Most of the prisoners recruited are Rexes because most Russians were arrested for drugs. But the losses of the Rexen are particularly high because they keep “going through the roof”.
Rexes had a higher status than Drozdov’s group, he explains. Only one group would have had a lower status with the Wagner group. The HIV patients. “You have a red bracelet on your arm. And there are no lower recruits because they don’t take on convicted rapists or pedophiles. There is a separate unit for them,” says Drozdov.
Another convict Wagner recruited is Evgeny Novikov. He reports that there are regular public executions at Gruppe Wagner – carried out by junkie soldiers Rexes when someone disobeys a commander’s orders.
Once there was shelling at the front by Ukrainian soldiers. One of the convicts fled, no longer covering his own comrades. Back to safety, his superior yelled at him why he hadn’t gone forward. Then he was killed immediately, Novikov tells.
The recruited prisoner confirms the reports that there are numerous casualties, especially among the prisoners of the Wagner group. “We’re like a second line of machine guns.” Once upon a time, the commanders stood in front of the factory and recruited prisoners were ordered to disperse. “I didn’t see more than two people being taken away after that, wounded. The rest died,” said Novikov.
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