Images have emerged of the final resting place of Vladimir Putin’s criminal army who was killed fighting in Ukraine with the promise of winning his freedom.
Grave after grave has been filled in at the Krasnodar Cemetery, where criminals – released from prison to join forces invading Moscow – are buried.
Tens of thousands of murderers, rapists, thieves and drug traffickers have been released and promised full freedom if they continue to fight in Ukraine for six months, regardless of the severity of their conviction.
But the slaughter has been immense, fueling accusations that Putin’s commanders are cynically using convicts, mostly recruited by the notorious private army loyal to the Kremlin, Wagner, as cannon fodder to preserve regular Russian army troops.
The appearance of the footage came as a former Wagner commander, who had fought in Ukraine, said he had fled to Norway in fear for his life and was now seeking asylum.
Grave after grave has been filled in this Krasnodar cemetery, where criminals – released from prison to join forces invading Moscow – are laid to rest
Pictured: Warlord Wagner Yevgeny Prigozhin lays flowers at the cemetery which houses 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 on a four-month contract, said in a video posted by rights group Gulagu.net that he crossed the border into Norway before being detained by the Norwegian police.
Medvedev, an orphan who joined the Russian army and served prison time before joining Wagner, said he escaped from the group after witnessing the murder of captured Wagner deserters.
“I’m afraid of dying in agony,” Medvedev told Vladimir Osechkin, founder of rights group Gulagu.net, who said it helped Medvedev leave Russia after he approached the group fearing for his life.
Wagner gave the deserters good reason to be afraid. In November, Russian detainee-turned-Wagner fighter Yevgeny Nuzhin — who switched sides in the Ukraine war — was executed with a sledgehammer a harrow that circulated online.
Wagner’s warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin described Nuzhin as a traitor, with Vladimir Putin’s close ally saying a “dog gets a dog’s death” in response to the clip.
Medvedev said Nuzhin had been in his unit.
Pictured: A cross bearing the name of Goncharenko Alexander Yurievich is seen at Wagner Cemetery. Dates show he died shortly before his 40th birthday
Pictured: Rows and rows of graves can be seen in this footage from the Krasnodar cemetery
The Russian president this week hailed his “army of prisoners” with his spokesman saying that Russia “must know – and knows – its heroes”.
The rapidly growing new Bakinskaya cemetery in the Krasnodar region is one of many cemeteries across Russia where Wagner fighters are buried.
More than 120 graves can be seen in footage from the cemetery, filled with victims from across Russia, some named, some not. Many more burials are expected shortly.
Five months ago it was an open field, without graves, said Krasnodar activist Vitaly Votanovsky.
It is now filling up rapidly with the private military company Wagner [PMC] fighters whose relatives do not claim the remains, or who had previously asked to be buried here, near a church in Goryachiy Klyuch, considered the place of worship of the private military company.
Prigozhin – himself an ex-con who is now Wagner’s billionaire boss – confirmed that this site was for the burial of his 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, land was allocated in the [nearby village of Bakinskaya].
He laid a bouquet of flowers on the grave of a fighter – Denis Glazkov – who died on December 1, 2022.
The cemetery (pictured) is quickly filling up with fighters from the private Wagner military company whose remains are unclaimed by relatives, or who have previously asked to be buried here, near a church in Goryachiy Klyuch, believed to be the place of worship of the private military company.
Tens of thousands of murderers, rapists, thieves and drug traffickers have been promised complete freedom if they continue to fight in Ukraine for six months, regardless of the severity of their conviction. But the carnage was immense. Pictured: A view of the cemetery
A large monument to fighters was erected in Goryachiy Klyuch, with plaques and personal numbers of fallen fighters.
The Battle of Soledar – which has been raging for the past few days – has left some 10,000 Russian servicemen dead, according to one estimate. These were mainly by Wagner.
Overall, it is claimed that the death toll of private military companies – of which Wagner is the main one – is now over 38,000.
One buried in Bakinskaya is Alexander Dityatev, jailed for 23 years in 2011 for murder, attempted murder and arson.
The tension between Wagner and the defense establishment came to light last Friday when the ministry claimed responsibility for the capture of the Ukrainian town of Soledar – disputed by Ukraine – but made no mention of Wagner’s role in the the fights.
Prigozhin complained about attempts to minimize the role of his forces and downplay their achievements. The Department of Defense then issued an update praising the “courageous and selfless actions” of Wagner’s fighters.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters this week that it was pointless for pro-Russian media to participate in media “manipulations” over an alleged rift between the armed forces and Wagner. He said Russia recognizes the two as heroes and “both will forever be in our memory.”
“As with all conflict, these are mostly products of informational manipulations, which are, okay, sometimes organized by our informational adversaries, but sometimes our friends behave in such a way that those enemies are not needed,” said he declared.
“Everyone is fighting for their country. So that’s how it should be seen.
Prigozhin (pictured left with Vladimir Putin in 2010) – himself an ex-con who is now the billionaire head of Wagner – confirmed that this site had been earmarked for the burial of his fighters
Meanwhile, deserter Medvedev said he was talking about Oslo as he sought asylum. He said he crossed the border, climbed through barbed wire fences, escaped a border patrol with dogs and said he heard border guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and on a thin and brittle ice towards Norway.
Prigozhin, who founded Wagner, said Medvedev worked in a Norwegian Wagner unit but “mistreated prisoners”.
“Be careful, he is very dangerous,” Prigozhin said in a statement released by his spokesperson. Prigozhin did not address allegations of murder or prisoner abuse in the statement.
In interviews with Gulagu, Medvedev said he became disgruntled after his contract was repeatedly extended by Wagner without his consent and he witnessed the murder and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the front by Wagner.
Medvedev said casualties were very high after Wagner began sending large numbers of prisoners to the front in the second half of 2022. Wagner’s Homeland Security Service imposed extreme penalties, Medvedev said.
He said the man who was shown in November being executed with a sledgehammer was part of his unit.
Wagner’s statement did not address Medvedev’s stories of punishment and battlefield casualties, or that his contract was repeatedly extended.
Prigozhin said his group is an effective fighting force because it has extensive battlefield experience, is well-supplied, has a meritocratic command system in which all can contribute, and “the toughest discipline”.