A Russian man who said he had killed children and other civilians while serving with the Wagner private military company in Ukraine appears to have recanted the claim, suggesting he was blackmailed into making it.
Azamat Uldarov, a former convict, made his retraction in a video call with the Russian news agency RIA-FAN. It’s unclear if there were any conditions to the interview.
He and another former convict, Alexey Savichev, previously gave long and rambling interviews to Russian human rights group Gulagu.net, saying they were among the tens of thousands of Wagner fighters recruited from Russian jails to fight in Ukraine.
Speaking with Gulagu founder Vladimir Osechkin, Uldarov said he shot and killed a young girl, calling it “a management decision.”
“I wasn’t allowed to let anyone out alive, because my command was to kill anything in my way,” he said, estimating that the girl was five or six years old.
In his interview with RIA-FAN – which is associated with Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin – Uldarov said he was drunk when he gave the interview, and alleged that Osechkin had blackmailed him about his time in prison.
Asked by RIA-FAN: “They made you say what you said in the video, correct?” Uldarov replied: “Not only correct, it’s [expletive] correct. I had to say it because I had no choice.”
“I said whatever I was told to say,” Uldarov then said.
“Prigozhin is a great guy,” he added, giving a thumbs up. “He saved our lives.”
But Gulagu’s Osechkin, who is based in France, told CNN he stood by the content of his interviews with the two men, citing Uldarov’s retraction as proof of how quickly dissenting voices are silenced in Russia.
Osechkin also claimed that both interviewees, Uldarov and Savichev, had been threatened with murder if they didn’t retract their statements to him. Savichev told Gulagu that his unit was ordered to kill any men 15 years old or older.
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