On April 17th, Gulagu.net, a human rights organization targeting corruption and torture in Russia, conducted interviews with former Russian convicts Azamat Uldarov and Alexey Savichev. The two are pardoned Russian convicts who were released into the Wagner group in August and September.
In the interview, the two admitted to a litany of war crimes including killing a “5 or 6 year old girl” and shooting several civilians. The two men claimed they were ordered to shoot any male over the age of 15 and to “annihilate anyone” when conducting clearing operations in Bakhmut and Soledar.
These claims brought the attention of Wagner owner Prighozin who, on the evening of the 17th, told his social media followers that he was ready to work with the Russian Federation Prosecutor’s Office if any of the claims were proven true. However, in the last six hours, that narrative has changed completely.
At approximately 0400 EST, Prighozin took to his VK account again and told his followers that Savichev has apologized for committing slander against the group. He then claimed that foreign intelligence services were blackmailing the men, through Gulagu, to make statements harmful to Russia. He urged Savichev to contact him and that “nothing bad would happen to him.”
This stands in stark contrast to what happened to Dmitry Yakushchenko, a Wagner deserter who was executed via sledgehammer, a Wagner staple, after his release from Ukrainian captivity in February 2023.
The Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman reacted to the interviews and said that Wagner mercenaries must be held responsible for their illegal actions in the conflict, especially the shooting of children in Soledar.