Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, Putin's confidant, has said he will now instruct his mercenaries not to capture prisoners of the war.
“We will kill everyone on the battlefield. Take no more prisoners of the war!”, Prigozhin said on April 23 in an audio recording in response to a question posted on the Telegram account of his press service.
Prigozhin's decision was apparently made in response to a so-called "intercepted conversation" posted to an unofficial Wagner-affiliated Telegram account which claimed it was between two Ukrainian soldiers deciding to shoot a prisoner of war.
The voices in the 21-second audio file speak Russian, and don't even mention that their apparent prisoner is Russian or give any indication that they themselves are Ukrainian.
No visual evidence or contextual information is given concerning the recording, making its authenticity highly dubious. Russian media and Telegram channels have notoriously produced many clumsily-made fake "intercepted conversations," claiming to be between Ukrainian soldiers or commanders, in the past.
Russian state-backed Wagner Group has been accused of torturing and executing civilians and POWs in Ukraine, Syria, and other countries.
Former Wagner mercenaries confessed on April 17 to murdering dozens of Ukrainian POWS, civilians, including children.
In the interview with Russian opposition media Gulagu.net, one of the former mercenaries said they had received orders from Prigozhin himself to "clean up" in Soledar and Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, meaning to kill everyone in sight.
After the interview, Prigozhin responded to former mercenaries' accounts, calling them "blatant lies," adding that Wagner "has never touched and does not touch" children. He also said that people "spreading lies" about Wagner were the enemy and that they would be dealt with "in a special way."
Executions and tortures of POWs breach the Geneva Conventions and constitute war crimes.