Ukraine has released extraordinary video footage that appears to show Russian fighters dragging their badly wounded commander away from the battlefield, and then beating him violently with what appear to be shovels.
A Ukrainian drone captured the incident near the eastern city of Bakhmut, where intense fighting has been raging for months. Four soldiers from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group carry their colleague through a landscape of ruined houses, holding his arms and legs.
They then dump him next to a barn. A second video appears to show three men then hitting him repeatedly with shovels. The fate of the injured commander is unclear. But the episode tallies with persistent reports of low morale among Russian mercenary units.
The Wagner Group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has hired tens of thousands of Russian convicts to participate in Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s war in Ukraine, promising them commuted sentences and cash incentives.
His fighters have been leading conventional Russian troops in Bakhmut for months, but they are slowly being replaced as the Wagner Group fails to make significant advances in the region.
Olga Romanova, the head of Russia Behind Bars, a charity advocating prisoners’ rights, said in late January that out of the 50,000 convicts recruited by the Wagner Group, 40,000 are either dead or missing, and only 10,000 are still fighting in Ukraine.