A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 5, 2023

Anti-Putin Fighters Offer Russian POWs Trade For Wagner-Captured Russian Officer

It was bad enough that Anti-Putin fighters supported by Ukraine who have made repeated incursions into Russian territory captured, in their latest attack, 12 Russian soldiers. 

But they are now adding to Russia's embarrassment by offering to trade the POWs for a Russian army colonel captured by Wagner because they say he ordered his troops to fire on them. The hostility between Wagner, the Russian army and the Chechens is growing, which Ukraine is using to both its military and public relations advantage. JL 

Euromaidan Press and Pjotr Sauer in The Guardian report:

Anti-Putin Russians fighting for Ukraine said that they will hand over Russian POWs captured inside Russia to Ukraine after the governor of Belgorod failed to pick them up. Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner group captured a Russian commander, Lt Col Roman Venevitin, the commander of Russia’s 72nd Brigade, (who) told an interrogator that, while drunk, he ordered his troops to fire on a Wagner convoy. (The anti-Putin Russians are now saying they will trade the 12 Russian soldiers they captured during their current Belgorod incursion for Wagner's captured Russian colonel).

Euromaidan Two military detachments of anti-Putin Russians fighting for Ukraine have said that they will hand over Russian POWs captured inside Russia to Ukraine after the governor of Belgorod failed to pick them up.

The Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion, who since 1 June have been conducting a renewed military operation in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, announced that the governor of Belgorod Oblast, Vyachelav Gladkov, failed to meet them at a church in Nova Tavolzhanka to retrieve the captive Russian soldiers. Instead, the groups stated that they will hand over the prisoners to Ukraine for further exchanges.

In a video address by the leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, Denis Nikitin, viewers can see ten captured soldiers and two wounded ones. On the afternoon of 4 June, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion recorded a video with two captives, stating that they were ready to release them in exchange for a personal meeting with Governor Gladkov of Belgorod Oblast.

“As a gesture of goodwill, which the Russian government so often talks about, we are ready to give you these prisoners, ordinary Russian soldiers, for the opportunity to talk to you personally, to discuss the current situation in the region and, most importantly, to talk about its future and the future of Russia as a whole,” RDK stated in its Telegram post.

In the video, the Russians invited Gladkov to the church in Nova Tavolzhanka, stipulating that he should arrive in an ambulance, accompanied only by a driver and without weapons. The groups expressed their desire to discuss the situation in the oblast, as well as the future of Russia in general. Governor Gladkov agreed to meet, but on his own terms. He stated that he was prepared to meet at the “Shebekino” border crossing point on the Ukrainian-Russian border. He scheduled the meeting from 17:00 to 18:00.

After Nikitin offered Gladkov to meet and exchange a conversation with him for Russian prisoners, the leader of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, wrote: “Denis, if no one comes to the designated place for the prisoners, I am ready to send one of my high-ranking deputies to pick them up. If Volodymyr Zelenskyy comes to this place, I am ready to come myself.”

On June 1, fighting broke out in the Russian border town of Shebekino. The Russian Volunteer Corps and Freedom of Russia Legion announced the second phase of the “liberation” of the Belgorod Oblast. Fighting continues to this day.

The Guardian Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner group of mercenaries has captured a Russian commander, as the notorious leader further escalates his feud with the regular army.

In a video posted on Prigozhin’s social media channels, Lt Col Roman Venevitin, the commander of Russia’s 72nd Brigade, tells an interrogator that, while drunk, he had ordered his troops to fire on a Wagner convoy.

In the footage, which resembled clips of prisoner of war soldiers, Venevitin said he acted because of his “personal dislike” for Wagner and then apologised.

Last week, Prigozhin accused the Russian army of trying to blow up his men as they were pulling back from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.


The businessman, who is best known as “Putin’s chef” because of his catering contracts with the Kremlin, also claimed his men had discovered explosives, which he said were planted on purpose by defence ministry officials.

The Russian ministry of defence has yet to comment on the footage.

Two close family members of Venevitin confirmed to the Guardian that the man filmed in the video was their relative.

Prigozhin, who has been arguing with top military officials for months, announced last week that his troops had largely pulled back from Bakhmut, most of which they captured last month after taking heavy casualties. The city is now believed to be controlled by the regular Russian forces.

The latest incident again exposes the rifts in Moscow’s war machine. It also comes amid an increase in fighting along the frontlines in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, leading to speculation that Kyiv has launched its much-anticipated counteroffensive.

Some nationalist pro-war commentators said Wagner’s arrest of a senior Russian soldier attested to Prigozhin’s growing influence within the Kremlin.

“Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose subordinates posted a video in which they mock a senior officer and an entire brigade commander … is allowed to do whatever he wants. He is considered as the highest caste!” Igor Strelkov, a retired Russian special operations officer and popular military blogger, wrote on his Telegram channel.

Prigozhin’s influence grew as his troops gradually captured Bakhmut in recent months, delivering Moscow the first tangible military victory since last summer.

Since the start of the war, Prigozhin has emerged as one of the most visible power players, frequently using social media to deliver scorching tirades against the defence ministry. His turbulent rise, however, has angered some elements of the Russian elite.

Last week, Prigozhin received rare public criticism when two close allies of the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, described him as a “hysterical blogger” who undermined Russia’s war effort.


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