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A runaway Russian mercenary claims his comrades refusing to fight in Ukraine are being executed in a chilling echo of tactics notoriously used by Stalin in the Second World War.

On January 31, 1943, Field Marshal Paulus surrendered the German 6th Army to the Russians at Stalingrad. An estimated 1.3million Russians died in the battle and nearly a million German and Axis combatants.

In an ominous echo from history the Soviet victory came after Josef Stalin issued his infamous Order No.227 on July, 27, 1942, decreeing that there should be “Not one step back!” by his forces.

As a result of the order more than 1,000 retreating Red Army soldiers were shot by their own side in the first three months. The units assigned to do the shooting were called Blocking Detachments whose job it was to execute those who Stalin saw as “panic-mongers and cowards”.

Fast forward 80 years and Putin’s preferred mercenaries, the Wagner Group, are apparently employing the same doctrine on the battlefields of Ukraine.

And in another parallel to his Soviet leader forbear, Putin has also added convicts to his ranks emptying many Russian prisons of rapists and murderers willing to fight to overturn their sentences.

In 1942 Stalin’s order No. 227 led to the establishment of Penal Battalions which were filled with soldiers essentially turned into prisoners which the command could do with as these pleased.

Speaking to CNN Andrei Medvedev, 26, who is seeking asylum in Norway, claims after being shot the Russian fighters he served with today were buried in holes excavated by the newly signed up troops.

The terrifying claims were made by Medevev – who branded Wagner boss Yevgeny Prighozin “the devil” after he escaped fighting near Bakhmut, Ukraine.

In his interview with CNN Medvedev lashed out at ex-jailbird Prighozin and said many mourning Russian families were not being paid promised compensation for lost soldiers.

In order to save the £57,000 compensation troops were just registered as “missing” as “nobody wants to pay that kind of money,” according to Medvedev.

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Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper he said: “They would round up those who did not want to fight and shoot them in front of newcomers.

“They brought two prisoners who refused to go fight and they shot them in front of everyone and buried them right in the trenches that were dug by the trainees.”

Medvedev crossed into Ukraine and was sent to the frontline just two weeks after signing up with the notorious Wagner killers-for-hire agency, the Mirror reports.

Dubbed “Putin’s private army” it is believed well-over 50,000 frontline Russian troops in Ukraine are actually on the Wagner payroll.

According to CNN Medvedev claims he reported directly to Wagner founders Dmitry Utkin and shady oligarch Prigozhin who has served nine years behind bars years ago.

Referring to the ex-gangster as “the devil” Medvedev highlights the fact that Prighozin is not doing any actual fighting, whilst ordering executions for those who refused.

He told CNN: “If he was a Russian hero he would have taken a gun and run with the soldiers.”

The Wagner Group has been suspected for some years of committing atrocities in Syria and Africa but is also gaining power in the Russian military system.

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