Russian mercenaries detail killing men, women and children in Ukraine

A video posted by a Russian NGO contains confessions of two former prisoners recruited to serve in Russia’s brutal mercenary corps.

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A close-up image on a cellphone of Azamat Uldarov.
Azamat Uldarov. (via

The Russian mercenaries shot pensioners, women and children — a 5-year-old girl, one said, right through the head.

Details of brutal war crimes committed by the Wagner Group in Ukraine have been published by, a Russian human rights organization. In the horrifying testimonies, Azamat Uldarov and Alexei Savichev, who say they served as Wagner unit commanders, confess in explicit detail the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians, injured Ukrainian prisoners of war and Russian servicemen who had deserted or refused to take part in the massacre.

Wagner has played a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by filling out the Kremlin’s front lines with waves of its mercenary fighters. Moscow has allowed Wagner to recruit convicts like Uldarov and Savichev directly from Russian prisons, offering amnesty even for the most violent offenders in exchange for throwing them into the maw of war.

The clips that emerged on social media were taken from a longer video uploaded to YouTube by Speaking in video calls to Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of the NGO, Uldarov and Savichev explained that orders to kill Ukrainians had come directly from the Wagner Group's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, himself a former convict, who has become one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs.

Alexei Savichev, wearing a cap, appears on a cellphone recording of a phone call with a small picture of Vladimir Osechkin in the corner.
An image of Alexei Savichev taken from a video phone call with Vladimir Osechkin (inset) of (via

In January, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Wagner as a transnational criminal organization, accusing it of having “engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali.” The killings described by Uldarov and Savichev allegedly took place during the recent Russian offensives in Bakhmut and Soledar.

The mercenaries gave explicit details about how Russian forces were ordered to go house by house in Bakhmut, killing anyone they found inside, civilian and military alike. “To kill everyone. Not to take anyone prisoner. We were told this by Prigozhin. Via video,” Uldarov claimed, adding that his forces carried out these orders ruthlessly.

“When I went into the basement, there were children there. And I was instructed not to release any. I was in command. Me and my group killed everyone. Then we all left. We didn’t let anyone out,” he said. “There were about 40 children there. I gave the command to kill everyone. It was a big house, nine floors. The whole basement was packed and mined. I made the decision to ‘zero’ everyone.”

Prigozhin denied the allegation on the social media site Telegram. “Regarding the execution of children, of course, no one ever shoots civilians or children, no one absolutely needs this. We came there to save them from the regime they were under.”

“As for what [Osechkin] filmed, I looked at the pieces of video I managed to see,” he added later. “I can say the following: If at least one of these accusations against me is confirmed, I am ready to be held accountable according to any laws.” But, he continued, “if none is confirmed, I will send a list of 30-40 people who are spitting at me like Osechkin (there is a whole list of them, including the scum that fled Russia) that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine is obligated to hand over to me for a ‘fair trial,’ so to speak.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, in camouflage and helmet, on the top of a tall building looking over a town, with another combatant in uniform behind him.
A photo from video showing Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner Group, asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to withdraw the remaining Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut to save their lives. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)

In another chilling video, Uldarov describes how he personally murdered a young Ukrainian girl. “She is screaming. She’s little, you know? Five, maybe 6 years old. And I took a kill shot, you know?”

Uldarov later recanted his confession on a Prigozhin-linked news site, claiming he was drunk and pressured to admit things he hadn’t done in the war.

In separate video testimony, Savichev detailed to Osechkin the murder of unarmed young Ukrainian teenagers earlier this year. Savichev recounted how teenagers captured by Russian forces were made to pull up their shirts to reveal any possible tattoos — a common Russian tactic to determine their ideological disposition.

Wagner mercenaries shot those with tattoos, Savichev said. He attempted to justify his actions by claiming he didn’t consider the teenage Ukrainians to be “civilians.” The presence of tattoos, he asserted, was evidence that his victims were members of the Azov battalion, a nationalist unit in the Ukrainian military. Russia, falsely, has amplified the unit's influence and describes all Ukraine’s defense forces as “neo-Nazis.”

Yet documents published on’s own Telegram channel confirm many of the details in Uldarov's and Savichev’s accounts, including certificates of the release from their former penitentiaries and the “courage” medals they received from Wagner. Another document was a pardon for Uldarov, personally signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

An image on a cellphone of Azamat Uldarov, with a frame of another man inset. (via
Azamat Uldarov. (via

Supporting evidence of the ex-mercenaries’ atrocities was further published by Ukraine’s domestic security service, the SBU. On its Telegram channel, the organization published what it claims was an intercepted phone call between a Russian soldier and a woman who is apparently his wife, supporting the testimonies made by In the recording, the unnamed Russian soldier details a similar “no quarter” policy, explaining how he, too, had to kill women, children and teenage girls. The woman attempts to justify the murder of civilians, claiming that “anyone peaceful will have already left.”

While executing civilians under any circumstances is a war crime, giving an order of “no quarter” is also against international law, according to numerous treaties, including the Geneva Conventions, to which Russia is a signatory.

Yahoo News cannot independently verify the veracity of this SBU intercept.

The video confessions published by are the latest evidence of likely Russian war crimes committed during the course of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Last week, a video circulated on social media showing a captive Ukrainian soldier being beheaded by his Russian captors. Another video showed two beheaded Ukrainian soldiers near a destroyed Ukrainian M113 armored personnel carrier.

Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, told the news outlet Ukrainska Pravda that his office has received “dozens” of videos showing Russians publicly executing Ukrainians. "There are beheadings, cutting off genitals, ears, nose, limbs or phalanges on the hands,” Lubinets said. “Some [of the perpetrators] have been identified.”

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky bestowed a posthumous Hero of Ukraine award on Oleskandr Matsievskiy, an unarmed Ukrainian captive who was filmed being shot and killed by Russian soldiers.