A series of brutal attacks on Russian veterans returning from the frontlines are highlighting divisions in Russian society over the Ukraine war.
A number of Wagner Group mercenaries returning from Ukraine have been killed on their home soil, including one who was stoned to death, according to local media reports.
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s troops, once seen as vital to Russia’s battlefield successes, have fallen in disrepute since the short-lived mutiny in June, with soldiers’ families complaining that the government was reneging on promised benefits and pensions payments for the mercenary group’s former members.
Violent and deadly attacks both on—and by—the former soldiers who either returned home voluntarily after the group was allegedly disbanded, or were sent back after being wounded, underscore growing divisions inside Russia as the conflict drags on, taking a toll on Russian society and economy.
Two former soldiers, one ex-Wagner mercenary and one ex-conscript, were assaulted by a group of youths in the Russian region of Zabaikalye, in Western Siberia, on August 5.
According to local media reports, Putin’s “special military operation” soldiers returned from the front earlier this summer after being wounded—both lost a leg in the conflict. They were attacked after an argument at a cafe with local youths, who called the soldiers “murderers.”
Anti-war sentiment in Russia is most prevalent among young people aged 18 to 24, according to polling in June from the Russian Field sociological company.