The BBC reports that new mass graves containing bodies of the Wagner Group’s mercenary army have been discovered in several parts of Russia. The British broadcaster says it knows seven such cemeteries, totalling at least 995 bodies.
Many of them would have been convicts who chose to fight in Ukraine in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Locals this month discovered two previously unnamed mass graves in Novosibirsk and near Irkutsk, according to the BBC’s Russian-language edition. Previously, victims were buried near where their relatives live, but this would now often happen in other regions without informing the family. As a result, relatives are trying to locate the body of their deceased relative to rebury them at home, according to the BBC.
The Wagner Group, which maintains close ties to the Kremlin, has suffered heavy losses in the war in Ukraine, especially in the ongoing battle for Bachmut. The United States estimated in January that 50,000 mercenaries were active for Wagner in Ukraine, 40,000 of whom were recruited from Russian prisons. Ukrainian officials claim some 30,000 mercenaries deserted, killed or wounded in the war. These figures have not been independently verified.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin reported last month that he wanted to recruit new members on a large scale. By mid-May, the group aims to recruit 30,000 new mercenaries.