Relatives of prisoners recruited by the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) for the war in Ukraine have been recommended not to open the coffins returning from the front line, reported independent outlet TV Rain citing the wife of one of the convicts. The TV channel also found several other social media posts describing similar cases.
Angelina (name changed), TV Rain’s source, told the outlet that her husband was recruited by the Wagner PMC last fall. She is confident that he was forced to join the mercenary group, as her husband did not consider Ukraine to be an enemy country and regularly traveled there to visit his relatives. In late December, Angelina received a call from a representative of the Wagner PMC, who said that her husband had been killed. The prisoner's family then received a coffin, medals, a letter of commendation for his death in the fight for the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” and a death certificate that had been signed in Bakhmut.
When Angelina asked whether her husband was lying in the coffin, the representative answered in the affirmative. The woman was assured that “some DNA” is taken from the mercenaries before they are sent to war, and when their corpses are discovered, the DNA samples are “compared.” A few weeks after the funeral, however, Angelina received a text from an unknown man who informed her that her husband was in Debaltseve in the Donetsk region. Shortly after, she received a call from a Ukrainian number. The caller introduced himself as an officer of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and said that Angelina's husband was alive – the man had been detained in late December, and was now under arrest. The alleged SBU officer then described to Angelina the same wound that had killed her husband according to the Wagner PMC. However, in his version of the story, the man survived.
According to TV Rain, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service told Angelina that “all this is confidential.” The woman’s husband is currently listed as wounded and in captivity by the military commandant's office of Ukraine. The Kharkiv regional SBU office was unable to confirm or deny the information to TV Rain.
The TV channel also reported on other similar cases. In chat rooms and public forums related to the war in Ukraine, relatives of recruited prisoners write that they are afraid to open the coffins with their dead family members. Wagner PMC representatives have allegedly recommended that they refrain from doing so.