During storming of Bakhmut, 17,000 prisoners recruited by Wagner PMC were killed

During storming of Bakhmut, 17,000 prisoners recruited by Wagner PMC were killed

The Wagner PMC, founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, recruited at least 48,366 prisoners from Russian colonies for the war in Ukraine, more than a third of whom were killed during the storming of the city of Bakhmut.

According to Ukrinform, this is stated in a joint investigation by Mediazona and the BBC Russian Service.

Journalists of these publications received internal documentation from the military company regarding payments to the families of the deceased mercenaries and analysed it.

It is noted that the recruitment of prisoners for the war was referred to in the PMC as "Project 42174" or "Project K". Prisoners were offered to fight at the front for six months in exchange for a pardon and expungement of their criminal records, as well as a good salary and insurance payments to relatives in case of death or injury.

Those who agreed to sign a contract with the PMC were given a token in the format Kxxx-xxx, where the first number is the number of the colony and the second is the number of the person. The first recruitment took place on 1 July 2022 in the Yablunivka CF-7 in the Leningrad region. The badge "K1-001" was given to a prisoner with the call sign "GDR". He later died, his name is unknown. The last known case of recruitment dates back to 7 February 2023 (K616, LIU-42 Leninsk-Kuznetsky, Kemerovo region).

The authors of the investigation identified 341 colonies out of 501 that were mentioned on the badges of recruited prisoners. These included 227 strict regime colonies, 75 general regime colonies and 28 special regime colonies. The prisoners were also recruited from the colonies-settlements and medical correctional institutions.

Adding up all the known last token numbers, journalists came up with a figure of 48,366 people, while Prigozhin himself publicly estimated the number of those recruited in the colonies at around 50,000.

Read also: Strike in Kharkiv: number of casualties rises to six

Most of Wagner's men died in the battles for Bakhmut. According to Prigozhin, this battle, which the PMC called the "Bakhmut meat grinder" operation, began on 8 October 2022. The authors of the investigation decided that the start of the operation should be postponed to 15 July 2022, as, according to the PMC's lists, the first recruited prisoner died on that day near Bakhmut. Prigozhin claimed that the Wagner PMC took control of the town on 20 May 2023. The authors of the investigation consider 6 June to be the correct date - on that day, the Wagnerites lost only one person.

Thus, the battle for Bakhmut lasted 327 days. During this time, Wagner's PMC lost at least 19,547 people. Of these, 17,175 were prisoners and the rest were voluntary mercenaries.

In total, one in three prisoners did not return from the 'Bakhmut meat grinder' - 35.5%, if we count the number of recruits according to the Wagner PMC's accounting.

The PMC spent almost 108 billion rubles (USD 1.214 billion) on payments to the relatives of those killed near Bakhmut, the investigation calculated. Each family received 5 million rubles in compensation plus 300,000 rubles for funeral arrangements.

As reported, the Wagner PMC is an unofficial Russian armed group created in 2014 by St Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is close to Vladimir Putin. PMC mercenaries have fought in Syria, Libya and other African countries, and participated in Russia's hybrid war in eastern Ukraine.

Prigozhin's conflict with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defence led to the march of Wagner units on Moscow on 23-24 June 2023, which Putin described as a military mutiny. In the end, Prigozhin stopped the march in exchange for the authorities' refusal to prosecute the mutineers. After that, the plane with Prigozhin on board was blown up on 23 August 2023 in the Tver region on its way from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport to St Petersburg.

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