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Former Wagner Commanders confess to mass shootings of civilians, children in Bakhmut

war crimes Wagnre Bakhmut
Screenshot from Gulagu.net video
Former Wagner Commanders confess to mass shootings of civilians, children in Bakhmut

Former Russian prisoners who served as commanders in the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) have confessed to the mass murder of children, women, and the elderly in Russian-occupied territories, including Soledar and Bahmut, cities from where Ukrainian forces retreated after heavy battles with Russian occupiers.

The confessions were made by Azamat Uldarov and Oleksiy Savichev, both of whom were pardoned by Putin and recruited as part of a program known as “Project K” initiated by Yevgen Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner PMC, in a video recorded by Gulagu.net, a Russian human rights organization.

Suspilne summarized the main points of Gulagu’s investigation, which we bring to you in English.

Uldarov and Savichev detailed the execution of over 20 Ukrainian children and teenagers, the detonation of a pit containing more than 50 wounded prisoners and “500s” (Russians soldiers who defected, refuding to carry out orders to kill Ukrainians), and the clearing of residential buildings with the murder of all inhabitants, including children. The two men are currently in Russia and are not under any influence from the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) or the CIA, according to the Gulagu.net investigation.

Uldarov and Savichev were said to have given detailed and consistent testimony during a week of video and audio interviews and shared the details of the crimes with founder of Gulagu.net, Vladimir Osechkin.

Former prisoner from Wagner’s ranks Alzamat Uldarov. Screenshot from the video

Uldarov confessed to receiving and executing orders to shoot civilians, including children.

“I want Russia and other countries to know the truth. I don’t want war, I don’t want bloodshed. You see, I’m holding a cigarette in this hand. With this hand, I carried out the order – to kill children. I was given a command, and I killed. What else was I supposed to do?” he said.

According to Uldarov, he and his squads were ordered to “clean up and destroy everyone” in Soledar. About 150 mercenaries landed in the area of this city.

“What we did when we entered Soledar and Bahmut… that was a scene. We were given a command – to clean up and destroy everyone. We went and killed everyone… We were given a command to evacuate civilians from Bahmut, from Artemivsk. I went to save these civilians… There were children. Khokols [derogatory for Ukrainians]. When I went into the basement, there were children. And I was commanded not to let anyone out. I carried out the command and didn’t let anyone out. I f***ed everyone there, with my group. There were women, men, pensioners, children. Do you understand what’s on these hands now?” he said.

In total, according to Uldarov, there were 300-400 people in the basement, including about 40 children.

“I gave the order to destroy everyone. It was a big building, a nine-story building, and the entire basement, as well as the first and second floors, were packed with people and mined. I gave the order – to ‘zero’ everyone,” he said.

Uldarov also told how he killed a five-year-old child with a “control” shot.

“She’s screaming, she’s a little child, you understand. She’s five-six years old, and I shot, you understand, a control shot. There was a command to clean up everyone,” he said.

According to him, this happened on March 18 in Bahmut.

In response to the question of who gave the order to “kill everyone,” Uldarov said that his immediate commanders received orders for the cleanup from Prigozhin.

Alekesy Savichev, another former Wagner PMC member, revealed that after a prisoner exchange in February, officers ordered the mercenaries to destroy everyone over the age of 15 in the Bahmut area.

Aleksey Savichev. Screenshot from video by Gulagu.net

“Civilians were coming out. And there was an order: to shoot everyone from 15 years old and above immediately without words. 20 – 24 people were shot, including 10 – 15-year-olds and 17-year-old teenagers. There was an order – to clear the house. It didn’t matter who was there. There was no chance of survival. Not a single living person was left in the house. If you don’t follow the order – you are wiped out,” he said.

The Wagner fighter noted that they even shot for tattoos.

“They came out unarmed, but when they raised their shirts, there were such tattoos that there was nowhere to look,” he said.

Savichev added that the “Wagnerites” never took anyone prisoner, as this is done by the military personnel of the Russian Ministry of Defense. He also told that mercenaries were executed for refusing to carry out orders to shoot civilians, as well as for communicating with journalists.

According to Savichev, 70 former prisoners were shot in front of him for non-compliance with orders, eight of whom he knew.

The “Wagnerite” also confessed that he personally blew up a ditch with 60 people, some of whom were alive.

“There were definitely 60 men in the ditch. There were no screams, they just breathed. I had an order – to come, blow up and set on fire. I will not look how many people were breathing there, how many were alive. I just saw my people there, reported to the commander, he told me that these were not ours anymore. I just executed the order. It was January 19-20, because on January 23 I was already wounded,” he said. Savichev noted that he threw about 30 grenades into the ditch. Then the bodies of the deceased were burned.

Uldarov and Savichev were recruited to join the Wagner PMC while serving prison sentences. The practice of recruiting prisoners to join Wagner was essential for the PMC’s “meat grinder assaults” in the key battles in eastern Ukraine.

Alzamat Uldarov is a 42-year-old former inmate of Penal Colony No. 13 of the Saratov Region Federal Penitentiary Service. He told Gulagu.net that while serving his sentence, he was subjected to violence in the Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1 of the Saratov Oblast Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service, where torture was previously reported by the media and on the basis of which the Russian Investigative Service opened criminal proceedings. Gulagu.net confirms the facts of torture and perverted forms of violence against Uldarov.

Uldarov was recruited by the Wagner PMC and pardoned by a Russian presidential decree of 23 August 2022.

Oleksiy Savichev was serving his sentence in a penal colony in Voronezh. He had 3 months left in his sentence, but in September 2022, he was recruited to the Wagner PMC. According to Savichev, he went to war because he “wanted to change the picture” after spending 30 years in prison.

“They took everyone who could kill. And I can kill,” he said.

As a man with a huge “experience” Savichev was appointed commander of a reconnaissance group.

 

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