Footage has emerged of the final resting place of Vladimir Putin’s criminal army who have been killed fighting in Ukraine with the promise of earning their freedom.
Grave after grave has been filled at the cemetery in Krasnodar, where criminals – released from prison to join Moscow’s invading forces – are being laid to rest.
Tens of thousands of murderers, rapists, robbers, and drug traffickers have been released and promised their full freedom if they stay alive fighting in Ukraine for six months, no matter how serious their conviction.
But the slaughter has been immense fuelling accusations that Putin’s commanders are cynically using convicts, mostly recruited by notorious Kremlin-loyal private army Wagner – as cannon fodder to preserve the Russian army’s regular troops.
Emergence of the footage came as a former commander of Wagner, who had fought in Ukraine, said he fled to Norway fearing for his life and now is seeking asylum.
Grave after grave has been filled at this cemetery in Krasnodar, where criminals – released from prison to join Moscow’s invading forces – are laid to rest
Pictured: Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin lays flowers at the cemetery which is home more than 120 graves of fallen Russian soldiers, killed fighting for Vladimir Putin in Ukraine
Andrei Medvedev, who joined the group on July 6, 2022 with a four-month contract, said in a video posted by the Gulagu.net rights group that he had crossed the border with Norway before being detained by Norwegian police.
Medvedev, an orphan who joined the Russian army and served time in prison before joining Wagner, said he had slipped away from the group after witnessing the killing of captured deserters from Wagner.
‘I am afraid of dying in agony,’ Medvedev told Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the Gulagu.net rights group, which said it had helped Medvedev to leave Russia after he approached the group in fear for his life.
Wagner has given deserters good reason to be fearful. In November, Russian inmate-turned Wagner fighter Yevgeny Nuzhin – who changed sides in the Ukraine war – was executed with a sledgehammer a harrowing that circulated online.
Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin described Nuzhin as a traitor, with the close ally of Vladimir Putin saying a ‘dog receives a dog’s death’ in response to the clip.
Medvedev said Nuzhin had been part of his unit.
Pictured: A cross bearing the name of Goncharenko Alexander Yurievich is seen at the Wagner cemetery. The dates show he died shortly before his 40th birthday
Pictured: Rows and rows of the graves can be seen in this footage of the Krasnodar cemetery
The Russian president this week hailed his ‘prisoner army’ with his spokesman declaring Russia ‘must know – and knows – its heroes’.
The rapidly growing new burial ground at Bakinskaya in Krasnodar region is one of numerous cemeteries across Russia where Wagner fighters are laid to rest.
More than 120 graves are visible in footage from the cemetery, filled by victims from across Russia, some named, some not. Many more burials are expected imminently.
Five months ago, it was an open field, with no graves, said Krasnodar activist Vitaly Votanovsky.
It is now filling rapidly with Wagner private military company [PMC] fighters whose relatives do not claim the remains, or who earlier requested to be buried here, near a church in Goryachiy Klyuch, seen as the private military company’s place of worship.
Prigozhin – himself an ex-convict who is now the billionaire head of Wagner – confirmed that this site was allocated for the burial of its fighters.
‘There are graves of those who, for various reasons, wrote in their statement that in case of death, they wanted to be buried near the chapel of the Wagner PMC in Goryachiy Klyuch,’ he said.
‘Since there are no burial places near the chapel itself, with the support of the administration of the Krasnodar region, a plot was allocated in the [nearby village of Bakinskaya].
He laid a bouquet of flowers at the grave of one fighter – Denis Glazkov – who died on December 1, 2022.
The cemetery (pictured) is filling rapidly with Wagner private military company fighters whose relatives do not claim the remains, or who earlier requested to be buried here, near a church in Goryachiy Klyuch, seen as the private military company’s place of worship
Tens of thousands of murderers, rapists, robbers, and drug traffickers have been promised their full freedom if they stay alive fighting in Ukraine for six months, no matter how serious their conviction. But the slaughter has been immense. Pictured: A view of the cemetery
A large monument to the fighters has been erected at Goryachiy Klyuch, with plates and personal numbers of fallen fighters.
The battle for Soledar – raging in recent days – has seen some 10,000 Russian military deaths, according to one estimate. These were mainly from Wagner.
Overall, there are claims that the death toll from private military companies – of which Wagner is the main one – are now more than 38,000.
One buried in Bakinskaya is Alexander Dityatev, jailed for 23 years in 2011 for murder, attempted murder and arson.
Tension between Wagner and the defence establishment burst into the open last Friday when the ministry claimed the capture of the Ukrainian town of Soledar – which Ukraine disputed – but made no mention of Wagner’s role in the fighting.
Prigozhin complained of attempts to minimise his forces’ role and belittle their achievements. The defence ministry later issued an update praising the ‘courageous and selfless actions’ of Wagner fighters.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters this week it was unhelpful for pro-Russian media to take part in media ‘manipulations’ about an alleged rift between the armed forces and Wagner. He said Russia recognised both as heroes, and ‘both of them will be forever in our memory’.
‘As for any conflicts, these are mainly products of informational manipulations, which are, okay, sometimes arranged by our informational opponents, but sometimes our friends behave in such a way that such enemies are not needed,’ he said.
‘Everyone is fighting for their country. So this is how it should be viewed.’
Prigozhin (pictured left with Vladimir Putin in 2010) – himself an ex-convict who is now the billionaire head of Wagner – confirmed that this site was allocated for the burial of its fighters
Meanwhile, deserter Medvedev said he was speaking from Oslo while seeking asylum. He said he crossed the border, climbing through barbed-wire fences, evading a border patrol with dogs and said he heard border guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and over thin and breaking ice towards Norway.
Prigozhin, who founded Wagner, said that Medvedev had worked in a Norwegian unit of Wagner but had ‘mistreated prisoners’.
‘Be careful, he’s very dangerous,’ Prigozhin said in a statement released by his spokeswoman. Prigozhin did not address the claims of killings or mistreatment of prisoners in the statement.
In interviews with Gulagu, Medvedev said he grew disaffected after his contract was repeatedly extended by Wagner without his consent and witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners who were brought to the front by Wagner.
Medvedev said losses were very high after Wagner began sending large numbers of prisoners to the front in the second half of 2022. Wagner’s internal security service handed out extreme punishment, Medvedev said.
He said the man who was shown in November being executed with a sledgehammer had been part of his unit.
The Wagner statement did not address Medvedev’s accounts of punishment and of battlefield losses, or that his contract was repeatedly extended.
Prigozhin has said his group is an effective fighting force because it had extensive battlefield experience, it is well supplied, has a meritocratic command system in which all can contribute and ‘the most severe discipline’.
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