The mother of a dead fighter says a Russian group threatened to cut her access to her son's gravesite if she asked any questions.
The Wagner Group, a shadowy private military, has been connected to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine since 2014.
A new investigation spoke to the relatives of fallen mercenaries killed, who were critical of the group.
Russia relies on a private military group as a kind of proxy force for its interests in conflicts from Africa to the Middle East, but it's failing to pay the families of its dead soldiers or even square with them about the circumstances of their deaths, according to a new investigation.
In the new report from New Lines Magazine, the families of fallen Wagner Group mercenaries say they've been left in the dark and denied information about their family members' deaths. In at least one case, the mother of a fallen mercenary said she was told to stop asking questions or she would be denied access to her son's gravesite in Russia.
Svetlana Antipova told New Lines that she was only permitted 24 hours to visit the gravesite in Russia of her son Evgeny, who was killed in Syria while working for the Wagner Group.
She told New Lines that she was told "if you want to remain on good terms with us, don't ask us any questions."
Evgeny's father, Yuri, told the magazine that he has never been offered any compensation for his son's death or even the explanation of it he has sought.
A Ukrainian think tank shared its findings from a years-long investigation with the magazine, which traced the identities of 4,184 mercenaries. Many relatives of mercenaries killed contacted by the magazine were critical of the group.
The Wagner Group has close ties to the Russian government. On Dec. 13, the European Union sanctioned it for "serious human rights abuses in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan and Mozambique, which include torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings."
The families of mercenaries who were killed say news of their loved one's deaths took months to reach them; however, none were ever given official notices of death.
The family of Mark Bich, a 21-year-old mercenary from Rostov, Russia who died in Syria in 2017, told New Lines that they would need to go to court to get an official death certificate and they don't have the strength. The family knows nothing about what happened to Mark and don't believe he is actually buried at the gravesite they were shown.
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