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What do we know about this video of Russian soldiers brutalizing other Russian soldiers?

  • A video showing Russian soldiers brutally attacking other soldiers is circulating on Telegram and X (formerly Twitter).
  • The footage was filmed in an occupied Ukrainian hamlet.
  • Violence in the Russian army is “old”, a specialist reminds 20 minuteswho is not “surprised” by these images.

Two men on the ground, beaten with sticks and kicked. One of them has a bloody mouth. In front of him, a man points a gun and fires to the side. A few meters behind them, five men are busy digging a hole. In Russian, a man insults the men on the ground and blames them for the deaths of other soldiers. He also accuses them of bringing drugs.

These violent images have been circulating since Tuesday on Telegram and X (formerly Twitter). Several Ukrainian media relayed them, pointing out the brutality in the Russian army. The video was filmed in Kulykivs’ke, a hamlet about fifty kilometers from Mariupol, as identified him Michael Sheldon, a researcher for the investigative site Bellingcat. The locality is on Ukrainian territory occupied by the Russian army. The video is not dated, however the leaves still present on the trees and the rather dry ground suggest that the video was not filmed in winter.

Who are these men? One of them has a “Gladiator Storm” insignia, the new name for the “Storm – Z” units, as noted by Michael Sheldon.

These units, also known as “Storm – Z”, are made up of former prisoners. They are not attached to fixed units, as explained in 20 minutes Michael Gjerstad, a researcher specializing in the Russian army attached to the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies): “The missions that are usually assigned to them are the most violent. They are the first to be killed. »

According to our observations, another man visible at the start of the video sports a patch that resembles a Wagner group badge.

One of the men visible in the video wears a badge similar to that of the Wagner group. – Screenshot video X and Alexander Galperin/SPUTNIK/SIPA

“The man may be a veteran of the Wagner group and he wears it as a mark of honor, or he is one of those members of the group who are now contractually members of the Russian army,” the researcher elaborates. .

Michael Gjerstad was not “surprised” by the video. Violence against conscripts in the Russian army is “systemic” and “old”, he emphasizes. “It has been a common thread in the Russian army for more than a century,” he adds. This phenomenon even has a name, dedovshchina, or the “reign of the grandfathers”. In 2004, the NGO Human Rights Watch already denounced the violence taking place in the Russian army.

Since 2008, the duration of military service has been reduced to one year in Russia. The same year, a major reform was introduced to professionalize the army. “In hindsight, it failed,” concludes the researcher.

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