PUTIN’S private army of ruthless mercenaries is unashamedly brutalising and butchering its own recruits, according to the latest reports and footage.
The Wagner Group has been showcasing its gruesome methods of torture and execution of its own fighters they claim have committed “treason”.
5A still from the barbaric footage of Yakushchenko allegedly being murdered with a sledgehammerCredit: East2West5Wagner Group forces pose in eastern Ukraine where they have helped wage a relentless and ferocious war on towns and citiesCredit: East2West5Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin poses with his mercenary squad near the brutal battlefield of SoledarCredit: ReutersWarlord and Putin’s “favourite chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin has been waging war in eastern Ukraine using his 50,000-strong paramilitary unit, the Wagner Group.
However, for any recruits that try to surrender, defect, escape or simply use their phones, Wagner’s commanders have made their punishments visible and merciless.
Their methods have included cutting off fingers, castrations, skinned prisoners alive or bludgeoned them with a sledgehammer.
The militia group, founded in 2014, cut its teeth in Crimea and then in proxy wars across Africa and the Middle East – all the while collecting accusations of war crimes and gross human rights abuses from the UN.
They have largely been involved in Russia’s eastern offensive, including in the bloodiest battles for Soledar and Bakhmut, which Ukrainian soldiers referred to as “hell on earth”.
In the summer, Prigozhin was reported to have personally been scouring Russia’s penal colonies for lags willing to trade their prison sentences for frontline fighting in exchange for their freedom after six months.
For thousands that signed up, this freedom eluded them as the badly-trained and ill-equipped recruits took on heavy losses on Ukraine’s frozen frontlines.
Ukrainian officials have referred to their role on the battlefield as “cannon fodder” – expendable soldiers to be sacrificed in the front waves, whilst the private militia’s specialist troops hang back.
However, their hastily-dug graveyards marked with wooden crosses are being added to by the brutality Wagner’s mercenaries show to their own recruits.
Convicts have had fingers cut off for minor offences including using their mobile phones or speaking back to superiors, according to anti-torture NGO Gulagu.net.
If they try to escape or retreat, Gulagu.net reports, they are told they will be shot and bodies of tortured soldiers are routinely burnt to hide the evidence.
Some of the new fighters have been shown a video of prisoner being skinned alive as an extreme warning to stay in line.
In late January, Ukrainian intelligence released an intercepted call between two Russian soldiers on the frontline, alluding to other extreme methods of punishment.
The soldiers can be heard saying: “The Wagnerians caught him and cut his f****** balls off.”
On Monday, the twisted mercenary group released an unveified video showing the execution of a convict soldier, Dmitry Yakushchenko.
The 44-year-old had reportedly defected to Ukraine from the frontline but was handed back to Russia during a prisoner swap earlier this month.
Yakushchenko was filmed with his head taped to a block as he spoke the lines: “Today I was in the streets of Dnipro, where I received a blow to the head and lost consciousness.”
“I woke up in this room where I was told that I was going to be tried [for desertion]”, the fighter said.
The barbaric video then shows his head being hit by a sledgehammer, before he is wacked twice more on the floor.
The same method of execution was used to kill fellow convict soldier Yevgeny Nuzhin, 55, in November on grounds of his “treachery” for joining the Ukrainian army.
However, doubt has been raised over the authenticity of Yakushchenko’s murder as Prigozhin himself released footage that appeared to show he was still alive and claimed he has been forgiven for his “mistakes”.
The casualties of this convict army could be as high as 43,000, according to Olga Romanova, head of a Russian human rights NGO for convicts.
They are sent on suicide-style missions, with claims made by Ukrainian soldiers that it is like fighting a drugged up, zombie army.
Ukrainian soldier Andriy, who was fighting in Bakhmut, explained: “We were fighting for about 10 hours in a row.
“And it wasn’t like just waves, it was uninterrupted. So it was just like they didn’t stop coming,” he told CNN.
“It was about 20 soldiers on our side. And let’s say 200 from their side.”
He described fighting the convict army as a scene from a zombie movie, adding: “They’re climbing above the corpse of their friends, stepping on them.”
Andriy said a machine gunner was stunned to find that when he would shoot at enemy soldiers, they kept on walking until they bled out.
“It looks like it’s very, very likely that they are getting some drugs before they attack,” he claimed.
5Russian conscript Yevgeny Nuzhin is thought to have been killed ‘for treachery’ having gone to fight for UkraineCredit: TWITTER/@NEXTA_TV/5Prigozhin dubbed Putin’s chef is a rising but controversial Kremlin starCredit: East2West
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk