Russian mercenaries captured in Ukraine have said they signed up to fight after being told they were at war with the West – including the UK. In a world exclusive for the Daily Mirror Defence Editor Chris Hughes spoke with two prisoners of war at a secret location in Ukraine.
The paper describes the men, a convicted killer and a man jailed for brawling, as recruits for the feared Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries.
Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, once dubbed “Putin’s chef”, reportedly met the men himself when he flew to their prisons and promised a new start with 200,000 Rubles a month – around £2,200.
Speaking to the Mirror this week the prisoners turned fighters described seeing comrades slaughtered in battle. It’s understood to be the first time a British newspaper has interviewed Wagner Group combatants. Both men had their faces covered to protect their safety should they be released.
One man told the Daily Mirror: “We were told other countries were involved in the war in Ukraine, including Britain and that we were defending Russia against foreign terrorists.
“I met Yevgeny Prizoghin and in total 200 of us agreed to join Wagner Group in exchange for a fresh start, money and I would be able to get a job after leaving Ukraine.
“With a criminal record I would not get a job and I felt I had no choice, even though it took a week for me to decide to join Wagner.”
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It’s understood out of 5,000 Wagner Group fighters initially signed up for Ukraine, around 1,000 died within weeks. Eventually, it is suspected as many as 50,000 were sent.
They underwent six weeks of “very tough training” with assault rifles, machine guns, mines, rocket-propelled grenades and some with sniper rifles.
Despite the grisly past of these two men the Mirror were asked by Ukrainian authorities to pixelate their eyes as an extra measure to avoid them being identified by Wagner Group hit squads in the future.
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