A former Russian convict pardoned after fighting for the Wagner Group in Ukraine says the mercenary group is now threatening his family after he publicly revealed details on war crimes.
Alzamat Uldarov, 41, told the Gulagu.net human rights group earlier this week that he had “killed children on orders” while serving in the group, and also took part in killing hundreds of Ukrainian civilians in the embattled city of Bakhmut.
“I want Russia and other nations to know the truth,” he said. “We were given the command to clean up and destroy everyone.”
Uldarov pointed the finger directly at Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, saying he had given the order to “not let anyone out” and “destroy everyone.”
In detail, Uldarov described slaughtering hundreds of civilians in a basement and recounted watching the executions of fellow fighters perceived to have betrayed the group. He said Ukrainian prisoners of war were also executed, usually “with a bayonet” and filmed on video. Another former inmate-turned-Wagner fighter, Alexei Savichev, told Gulagu.net he’d blown up and burned to death dozens of Ukrainian prisoners and fighters who refused to follow orders.
“I was told, ‘They’re not our guys anymore. Kill them all.’ And that’s it. I did what I was ordered,” Savichev said.
Prigozhin was quick to deny the allegations, insisting that Wagner does not target civilians and “went there to save them from the [Kyiv] regime.” He suggested Gulagu.net was working with Western intelligence services to discredit Wagner.
Prigozhin, meanwhile, publicly appealed to Savichev to contact Wagner about his “falsifications,” offering a “guarantee” that no one would hurt him.
Soon afterward, both the former fighters—who are currently located in Russia—described being bombarded with threats over their testimony. Savichev suddenly claimed he’d only given the interview to Gulagu.net because the group offered him money, and Uldarov claimed he’d been blackmailed into giving the damning testimony.
On Wednesday, however, a visibly distressed Uldarov appeared in a new video released by the human rights group in which he said he’d only reversed his original allegations against Wagner because Prigozhin had called and the group was threatening his family.
“You understand, there’s a likelihood, a risk, that I won’t live until morning,” he told Gulagu.net founder Vladimir Osechkin. “I was told directly that if I don’t change the testimony … He said, ‘You have a son, think about that, boy.’ … They simply told me that if I did not change my testimony, not only would I suffer, first of all, they would take me away and I would disappear, but my children, well, my family would suffer. I don’t want that and I won’t allow it. I’d rather die myself, let something happen to me, but don’t touch my family.”
He went on to say that Wagner’s internal security service was desperately trying to arrange a meeting with him. “They won’t leave me alone, they just won’t leave me alone,” he said.
Savichev, in comments to the independent outlet Verstka, said that he’d been paid for the interview with Gulagu.net, but he appeared to stand by his allegations against Wagner.
“I told only 10 percent of everything I could have told,” he said, adding that he was now being bombarded with threats. “I’m in hiding now, and I’m running around Russia like a rat.”