Ukrainian soldiers have compared Wagner recruits to zombies, describing drugged-up ex-prisoners climbing over the corpses of their comrades during wave after wave of brutal attack.
The Kremlin’s private military company bolstered its numbers by giving jailed criminals in Russia a six-month war contract, promising freedom at the end of their service if they survive the horrific onslaught.
The horde of killers, rapists, thieves and gangsters now populating Russia’s military with little training are being used as suicidal human battering rams to blast through Ukraine’s first lines of defence, before the experienced soldiers follow behind.
Ukrainian soldiers Andriy and Borisych, speaking from the besieged city of Bakhmut, said they have been battling hundreds of Wagner fighters for weeks in an attritional conflict.
Ukrainian soldiers Andriy and Borisych, speaking from the besieged city of Bakhmut, said they have been battling hundreds of Wagner fighters for weeks in an attritional conflict
Andriy told CNN: ‘They’re climbing above the corpse of their friends, stepping on them.
‘It looks like it’s very, very likely that they are getting some drugs before attack.’
In one particularly savage battle, Andriy said he was a group of 20 soldiers fighting uninterrupted waves of 200 Russians for 10 hours.
He said their AK-47 rifles became so hot from constant gunfire that they had to keep changing them.
The fighter added: ‘Our machine gunner was almost getting crazy, because he was shooting at them. And he said, ‘I know I shot him, but he doesn’t fall.’ And then after some time, when he maybe bleeds out, so he just falls down.’
When Wagner forces race forward, they dig foxholes while backed by artillery to consolidate their territorial gains.
One former Wagner commander who fled to Norway has even apologised for the horrors perpetrated in Ukraine.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, has recruited Russian convicts for the war effort
Ukrainian servicemen make a trench near Bakhmut where attritional fighting with Wagner fighters has been based
The PMC Wagner Centre is pictured in Saint Petersburg, the headquarters of the private army
Andrei Medvedev, who fled by crossing the Russian-Norwegian border on January 13, says he witnessed the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners recruited by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s killer militia.
He said he fled over the Arctic border, climbing through barbed-wire fences and evading a border patrol with dogs, hearing guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and over the frozen river that separates the two countries.
The 26-year-old is now seeking asylum in Norway.
‘Many consider me to be a scoundrel, a criminal, a murderer,’ Medvedev said in an interview. ‘First of all, repeatedly, and again, I would like to apologise, and although I don’t know how it would be received, I want to say I’m sorry.
‘I want to explain that I am not that person. Yes, I served in Wagner. There are some moments (in my story) that people don’t like, that I joined them at all, but nobody is born smart.’
Medvedev said he wanted to speak out about his experiences in the war so ‘the perpetrators are punished’ for their crimes in Ukraine.
‘I have decided to stand against it publicly, to help to ensure that perpetrators are punished in certain cases, and I will try to make my contribution, at least a small bit.’
Andrei Medvedev (pictured), who fled by crossing the Russian-Norwegian border on January 13, says he witnessed the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners
Medvedev said he joined Wagner in July 2022 on a four-month contract and that during that time he witnessed two people who did not want to fight being shot in front of freshly-recruited prisoners.
‘The scariest thing? To realise that there are people who consider themselves to be your compatriots, and who could come and kill you in an instant, or on someone’s orders,’ he said.
‘Your own people. That probably was the scariest thing.’
Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has previously said that Medvedev had worked in a Norwegian unit of Wagner and had ‘mistreated prisoners’.
‘Be careful, he’s very dangerous,’ Prigozhin said. Wagner did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Wednesday.
In Bakhmut, the Ukrainian Special Forces, National Guard and an artillery unit worked together to take out an assault platoon of Wagner mercenaries.
In Bakhmut, the Ukrainian Special Forces, National Guard and an artillery unit worked together to take out an assault platoon of Wagner mercenaries
The images, filmed from a drone, show the area to be a farmstead, with the Ukrainian military saying they had detected a platoon of Wagner mercenaries there
A Russian soldier walks outside of a building before the area is hit by what appears to be artillery shelling.
The images, filmed from a drone, show the area to be a farmstead, with the Ukrainian military saying they had detected a platoon of Wagner mercenaries there.
The area then continues to be shelled and the buildings damaged.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said on Wednesday evening that there is fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, with Russian troops attempting to advance near the strategic city of Lyman.
Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces are attempting to make gains that they can show on the anniversary of the invasion on February 24.
Zelensky said: ‘A definite increase has been noted in the offensive operations of the occupiers on the front in the east of our country. The situation has become tougher.’
This morning, rescuers are searching for survivors in the rubble of an apartment building in eastern Ukraine on Thursday after a Russian strike destroyed it.
At least three people were killed Wednesday and 20 wounded when a Russian rocket struck a residential building in the centre of Kramatorsk, located in Ukraine’s eastern industrial region of Donetsk.