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“Even angry Russian soldiers wouldn’t abuse Ukrainian prisoners like this”: Russian officer details captivity at the hands of the Wagner PMC

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Lieutenant Colonel Roman Venevitin, commander of Russia’s 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade, who had previously been taken prisoner by the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), claimed he had been tortured by the mercenaries, and detailed the regular kidnappings of Russian soldiers. He also accused Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin of political PR in a video appeal published by the Ostorozhno, Novosti channel.

According to Venevitin, tensions between the PMC and his brigade began from the first days of their deployment to the combat zone. He said that the mercenaries from the PMC provoked the fighters into conflict, issued death threats, and stole military hardware, deeming them war trophies:

“Our fighters were kidnapped, and were then tortured. For example, one soldier was kept in a cold cellar, acid was sprayed in his eyes, he lost his sight for a while, they poured gasoline over him and threatened to set him on fire with a lighter. [...] In April and May, the unit discussed an outrageous case in which one of our soldier was beaten and severely humiliated, and he committed suicide out of despair. There were cases when fighters were kidnapped and tried to trade them for ammunition, forced to work as warehousemen for the killed and wounded, used simply as laborers, like slaves. There were cases when my fighters were taken, forced to sign contracts with the Wagner PMC, thereby weakening the flanks in Bakhmut and my defenses, these cases happened, they’re documented.”

Venevitin also described the details of his capture by the mercenaries (PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has referred to the episode as a “detention”):

“How did my captivity occur? I was making a round of my units, being the commander of the brigade, and the PMC blocked my way. There was no legal or other basis for this, I wasn’t going to tolerate it as a military officer, [...] I obey my commander, the commander of the Third Army Corps and the group commander. As a result, the Wagner PMC personnel were disarmed and [told to f*ck off]. It would be strange to expect otherwise, since we’re in my area of responsibility, my brigade. I was then captured, held in a basement and abused – even angry and embittered Russian soldiers wouldn’t abuse Ukrainian prisoners like this. I was beaten, not allowed to sleep, dragged out of the basement three times a night, they even tried to shoot me. And after that you [Yevgeny Prigozhin] claim that I was ‘detained for investigative actions’? The video of my interrogation that you shared is the result of pressure and coercion, that's all.”

On June 4, Yevgeny Prigozhin's press service published a video of Venevitin’s interrogation by the Wagner Group.

The video shows the man with an injured nose bridge standing in a basement. He admits that he ordered to disarm the Wagner PMC’s rapid response group and also fired at an “Ural” transport vehicle carrying intoxicated mercenaries. Venevitin claimed that his actions were rooted in “personal animosity,” and admitted to being «guilty» when asked to describe his behavior.

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