There have been numerous reports of convicted criminals who were released after fighting in Putin’s war in Ukraine reoffending on their return from the so-called special military operation.

The New York Times cited the independent media outlet Verstka in April, which found that at least 190 violent crimes were carried out by pardoned Wagner recruits in 2023. These included cases of murder, attempted murder, violent assaults, rape, robbery and drug-related offenses.

The Можем объяснить (We Can Explain) investigative website reported earlier this week that statistics produced by Russia’s Supreme Court showed a surge in sexual attacks on children by released criminals returning from its war against Ukraine, many of whom had been originally sentenced for crimes with a sexual element.


Last week, during the May holidays the 15-year-old son of a Belgorod family was grabbed, kicked, forced into the trunk of a car, and raped in front of several other children.

The attack was reported to have been carried out by Alexey Gonchar-Bysha, a Wagner-released veteran who was a repeat offender.

The report said the Belgorod case was just the tip of the iceberg and provided case studies to illustrate the sort of offenses that were being committed, which some readers may find disturbing.

  • In March 2023, an unnamed contract soldier returned home after after serving in Ukraine where according to his wife, he began to drink heavily. After returning home drunk one evening he beat and attempted to rape his 10-year-old stepdaughter. In September 2023 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • In May 2023, less than a week after his contract expired, ex-Wagner fighter Sergei Shakhmatov raped two schoolgirls, aged 10 and 12. After meeting them outside their school, he threatened them with a pistol and a grenade and took them behind some garages, where he raped them. The court sentenced him in February 2024 to 17 years in a maximum-security prison colony
  • In June 2023, the Borus telegram channel reported that a mobilized man came on vacation to the Krasnodar region and tried to rape his stepdaughter, a 13-year-old sixth-grade student. He has already been convicted under articles of inviolability of the home and insulting a government official.
  • In August 2023, Mediazona reported that 35-year-old Wagner fighter, Alexey Khlebnikov threatened his 13-year-old niece with a knife and took her into the forest where he raped her. In 2018, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for murder, but after joining Wagner and serving in the war in Ukraine, he was freed. His court case for the rape is scheduled for the end of May.
  • That same month, Beware News said that an unnamed 37-year-old Wagner man, with previous convictions for theft and causing grievous bodily harm raped a 13-year-old girl on the bank of an irrigation canal near the village of Yuzhny.
  • In September 2023, the regional media in the Orenburg region reported that Wagner fighter Yuri Gavrilov was detained and accused of raping an 11-year-old girl after abducting her and holding her for several hours, before releasing her with threats of violence if she told anyone. Gavrilov is now believed to be on the run.
  • In February this year, that Nikolai Nechaev, who returned to Perm in Central Russia after being pardoned for his participation in the war, was arrested for raping a 14-year-old schoolgirl. According to ASTRA the man had several convictions prior to serving in Ukraine for robbery, rape, and sexual assault.
  • In March, ASTRA reported that Andrei Frolov, 34, who was released to Wagner in 2022 while serving a sentence for rape, murder, and car theft, carried out a sexual assault on a 7-year-old girl and raped a 9-year-old girl in the village of Yurgamysh, Kurgan region almost immediately after returning from Ukraine in May last year.

“We Can Explain” says it is impossible to establish the exact numbers of children who have suffered sexualized violence at the hands of those returning from the war as many remain unreported while others, where “veterans” are involved, rarely reach court with even fewer reported to the press.

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 15 July 2024
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 15 July 2024

Latest from the British Defence Intelligence.

Statistics of criminal cases, they have analyzed show an increase in the number of  sex crimes against minors. It has seen a year-on-year increase since the start of the full-scale invasion. The number of “violent acts of a sexual nature” has increased by 483 percent compared with the figures in pre-war 2021.


An unnamed forensic psychiatrist termed the upsurge in such actions as “Ukrainian syndrome.”

He told “We Can Explain”: “A person who has been in war may suffer from PTSD, which manifests itself in rapid changes in mood and outbursts of aggression. It may be that if an individual receives a head injury he may lose the ability to self-control. There may also be a transition of a cultural barrier that exists for a normal person in everyday life, but disappears in war. Regarding sexual crimes: if a person commits something during a war that he considers acceptable, he can transfer these things to civilian life. Therefore, the question is what is now seen as the norm in the Russian army.”

Anna Rivina, the head of the “ center,” one of Russia’s leading organizations dealing with the problem of domestic violence, believes that the increase in violent crimes after fighters return to the rear is a consequence of military propaganda, since it normalizes the “culture of violence.”

Social psychologist Alexey Roshchin argues that denying the problem of PTSD significantly aggravates the problem of growing violence after war. “If Zakhar Prilepin [Co-chairman of the Just Russia – For Truth political party and veteran of fighting in the Donbas] claims that psycho-trauma does not exist and it was invented by the “Council of Wives and Mothers,” then what are ordinary people to make of [this phenomenon].”

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