DW Report: Ukrainian POWs say Wagner Group violated laws

A Ukrainian human rights organization has collected evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian Wagner Group. Lawyers say the mercenary commanders must be held to account.

Torture and extrajudicial executions of Ukrainian prisoners of war, targeted attacks on civilians, and occupying critical infrastructure facilities on Ukrainian territory are some of the crimes that Russia’s Wagner Group is accused of committing.

The Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), a Ukrainian NGO, has collected evidence and released a report called “Wagner Group. Beyond Accountability,” which includes the testimonies of a dozen Ukrainian soldiers who were held prisoner by the Russian mercenary force.

The MIHR’s Tetyana Katrychenko told DW that it was the first time that Ukrainian soldiers held by the Wagner Group had been freed. She said there was a possibility that the mercenaries had changed their tactics and that in the past they had tended to kill prisoners of war immediately, in other countries and Ukraine.

According to the MIHR, the Wagner Group, which was led by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin until June 2023, has been fighting in Ukraine since 2014. It would seem that after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, as Wagner mercenaries themselves started becoming prisoners of war, they decided to keep their own captives alive in order to create a “pool for a military exchange.”

“There is evidence that the Wagner Group captured Ukrainian military personnel specifically for further exchanges from September 2022 to May 2023. It kept records of the prisoners, drew up lists and passed them on for exchanges,” Katrychenko said. She added that the Ukrainian soldiers who had now come free had said that the Wagner mercenaries only wanted a certain number of prisoners. “Others were killed brutally and demonstratively.”

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