Captured Russian mercenaries have revealed the lies they were sold to sign up to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Until recently, Victor and Anatoliy were both serving lengthy sentences in prisons in Russia – the first for the killing of a Chechen man, the other for brawling.
That is until Yevgeny Prigozhin – dubbed ‘Putin’s chef’ – helicoptered to their jails, promising them £2,200 a month and to wipe their criminal records clean.
They were parachuted to the frontline as Wagner Group fighters after six weeks of ‘very tough training’ with assault rifles, machine guns and mines.
They told the Mirror about being thrown into the horrors of war, seeing comrades slaughtered as worthless cannon fodder ahead of the Russian Army ahead of the one-year invasion anniversary tomorrow.
Viktor, a dad-of-two from Stavropolsky region in Kavkaz, said: ‘We were told other countries were involved in the war in Ukraine, including Britain, and that we were defending Russia against foreign terrorists.
‘We were told we would not be fighting civilians, but fascists and soldiers from other countries.’
In total, about 200 men in his prison agreed to join the Wagner Group, with hopes of ‘a fresh start’ after the war in Ukraine is won.
After signing up in September last year, Viktor was taken by bus to Rostov, near to Ukraine, and then to Luhansk, in Donbas,
‘With a criminal record I would not be able to get a job, and I felt I had no choice, even though it took a week for me to decide to join Wagner,’ the ex-builder said.
‘We would be sent in groups of 15 against what they said were just ten Ukrainian soldiers, then we’d discover there were up to 40 Ukrainians.’
Viktor described what was happening on the frontline of the war as ‘shocking and horrible’, detailing how he would see ‘arms and legs being shot off in battles’.
Like Viktor, Anatoliy was also captured by the Ukrainian Army while fighting as a mercenary for the influential group.
He had 18 months left on his three years and six-month sentence for brawling when Prigozhin flew into his prison looking for recruits.
The car mechanic, from Samara, central Russia, described the oligarch as a ‘serious man’.
Again like Viktor, Anatoliy said he was not told where he was being deployed to, but he ‘understood we would fight in Ukraine’.
‘We were doing full-scale attacks and I was in five big battles and Wagner Group was always ahead of the Army,’ he said.
Anatoliy was captured by Ukrainian forces after he and his Wagner comrades were sent into a battle against Kyiv’s forces in Donbas.
He said: ‘Eventually I was alone, pinned down by Ukrainian forces. Wagner Group sent in another detachment of ten men and the sniper killed five of them.
‘I was lying there with no more ammunition, a Ukrainian soldier standing above me with a machine gun. He fired into the ground near my legs as a warning. I was then taken prisoner unharmed.’
Wagner Group consists of around 50,000 soldiers largely recruited from Russian prisons.
It has played a decisive role in the war in Ukraine, working alongside the Russian army but separately from the formal military command.
But earlier this month, Metro.co.uk reported Putin is understood to be scaling down the group amid fears they have become too powerful.
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