- Ukrainian soldiers have been fending off Russian forces for more than seven months in Bakhmut.
- Russia’s paramilitary organization, Wagner Group, is sending convicts to the frontlines in the city.
- A Ukrainian soldier told BBC that using prisoners is “cruel, immoral, but effective.”
Prisoners are being sent to die on the frontlines just to give Russian forces a strategic advantage, a Ukrainian soldier stationed in the eastern Donetsk region told BBC.
For more than seven months, Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting Russian troops in Bakhmut — a city in eastern Ukraine that experts have said provides little strategic value but has come with large costs in lives. Ukrainian fighters told BBC, which interviewed troops last week in Bakhmut, that while they’ve been able to fend off enemy forces for months, Russia’s strategies have evolved.
One such move involved using prisoners to draw enemy fire and reveal their locations.
“They are learning, they are getting cleverer, and it really freaks me out,” a Ukrainian soldier who goes by the name Dwarf told BBC. “They send out a group — five morons taken from prison. They are shot, but the enemy sees where you are, walks around, and you are surrounded from behind.”
There have been previous reports that say Russian forces are using prisoners to bolster its troop numbers.
Oleksandr Danylyuk, a top Ukrainian military advisor, said in December that Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organization, has been sending prisoners to the frontline in Bakhmut to be killed in combat.
“They are — I cannot say fearless — but they have nothing to lose pretty much. So, they are attacking constantly and they’ve been killed in big quantities as well,” he said.
One prisoner in the Urals told Meduza, an independent Russian media outlet, that more than 1,000 convicts accepted Wagner Group’s recruiting efforts. That number dwindled by December to only 340, he said.
Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in February that his organization has “completely” stopped recruiting prisoners.
Dwarf, the Ukrainian soldier, told BBC that Wagner’s use of prisoners is still proving to be an effective strategy in Bakhmut.
“I’ll be honest. It’s genius. Cruel, immoral, but effective tactics. It worked out. And it’s still working in Bakhmut,” he told the news outlet.