Who is killing foreign mercenaries in Ukraine?
It is a compelling explanation for why so many are dying far from the frontline, and why authorities seem keen to deceive even families of the fallen about their loved ones’ deaths.
On September 16, the body of Daniel Burke, a 36-year-old British mercenary active in Ukraine, was found just over one month after he vanished without a trace.
In an interview for a local British newspaper, while Burke remained missing, his mother claimed Ukrainian police found his apartment in Zaporizhzhia, where he was last seen, empty with no signs of a break-in, and the front door triple locked. Efforts to trace his movements via CCTV apparently proved fruitless.
Burke, a former British Army paratrooper, was reportedly “experienced in frontline combat, reconnaissance, and rescue - skills which he was utilizing in Ukraine.” Following Russia’s operation, he immediately traveled to Kiev and had been in and out of the country ever since. Part of a foreign volunteer group known as the Dark Angels, which has received glowing media coverage and suffered several casualties in recent months, he allegedly only spent “a very short period fighting on the frontline,” before focusing on rescue and evacuation.
Burke’s body was discovered a week after the family of Jordan Chadwick, another British Army veteran active in Ukraine, revealed he had turned up dead in late June. Chadwick’s corpse was found in water, with his arms tied behind his back. An Australian YouTuber who previously fought in the country claims Chadwick drowned after being waterboarded in an initiation ceremony that went wrong. It was apparently devised by a fellow volunteer who was once part of Britain’s elite SAS.
There are indications that Chadwick’s body was moved after his death. Forensic examinations apparently show liquid found in his lungs, which does not match the water where he was found. His remains, like Burke’s, have been repatriated to Britain. Coroners’ inquests will now attempt to ascertain the truth about how the pair died — and why.
These investigations are likely to throw up extremely uncomfortable findings for state and non-state parties embroiled in the Ukraine proxy conflict. As we shall see, there has been a spate of mysterious killings of local and volunteer soldiers lately, which Kiev appears eager to conceal, or at least obfuscate. The question of why is an open and urgent one.
The Daily Telegraph speculated that Burke and Chadwick may have died due to “vetting for service in Ukraine [being] almost non-existent, allowing a minority of bad actors in.” As such, its foreign legions “have their share of misfits and hot-heads,” some of whom might have murdered them over “petty” disputes. A volunteer told the outlet:
“There are guys who shouldn’t be here - some with criminal records, some with PTSD, and some with drug and alcohol problems or who use steroids.”
This analysis was echoed by a Conservative lawmaker, himself a former Grenadier Guardsman, who met Burke in Ukraine in 2022 and has raised his case in parliament. He told The Telegraph, “Any war can…attract those with psychiatric problems and people who just want to kill,” which “can create a rough, tough culture.”
There is no doubt the Ukraine proxy war is a magnet for violent, unhinged individuals. Investigations by The Grayzone’s Alex Rubinstein into some of these characters have exposed how they are frequently witnesses to if not personally responsible for hideous torture and murder of civilians and Russian POWs alike. It would be unsurprising if this sadistic climate boomeranged on them from time to time. There are reports of disliked foreign volunteers being unwittingly dispatched across minefields by local commanders, among other lethal punishments.
In the wake of Burke’s body being discovered, Richard Woodruff - a self-avowed “British Cossack volunteering in Ukraine” since June 2022 - declared he would no longer “be heading to the front lines.” His contacts in Kiev had warned he was a “target”, who would “turn up dead” if he returned:
“Part of me wants to continue regardless of the threat but I need to listen to the experts on this one and not put [Ukrainian] soldiers / foreign soldiers at risk having to save my ass.”
Woodruff didn’t specify the nature of these threats or who or what was making them. Yet, there have been numerous reports over 2023, universally ignored by the Western media, indicating Ukrainian soldiers on leave are likewise dying in shady circumstances. In April, local news outlets reported that a 22-year-old from Rivne had been killed in battle. Four months later, his family revealed he was in reality found dead on train tracks en route to Zaporizhzhya, where he was posted, after a 10-day leave.
His family expressed frustration that authorities had apparently uncovered no leads or evidence since his burial. They were simply told he fell from a moving train in the early hours, in a manner indicative of premeditated murder. Suspiciously, they were instructed not to open his coffin when it arrived at his home village. They did so anyway, finding he’d been viciously beaten all over, with many bones broken. These injuries are apparently inconsistent with falling from a train while conscious.
Just as dubiously, in June the corpse of a 40-year-old male was found in Kiev’s Kyoto Park, with severe head injuries. At the time of death, he was wearing a Ukrainian military uniform. Police refused to release any information but oddly and repeatedly “assured” local journalists he absolutely was not a soldier, despite his outfit.
Two months later, Vasyl Stetso, of the Uzhgorod military recruitment center, was found at military training grounds outside the city, similarly with fatal head injuries. Authorities have to date remained tightlipped about their investigation, although again, his death is classified as a premeditated murder.
Secret partisan armies?
Leaked documents reported on by The Grayzone indicate that since Russia’s operation in Ukraine, local security services have considered keeping an extremely close eye on the public and private movements and statements of the country’s “pro-Russian contingent” to be a “top priority”. However, the agency had little success in this regard, until British intelligence cutouts provided them with suitable technology. Leaked records of a secret meeting between the Odessa SBU’s deputy director and these cutouts show:
“Tracking and monitoring of devices played a key role in the conversation. [The SBU] have existing methods and capability to track phones but highlighted that they had no way to identify users. They mentioned that their capability often tracked Russian phones that led them to legitimate civilians. This is an area we can support. We discussed…alternate methods to track and monitor such as app-based technology, and they were visibly impressed and excited at the prospect.”
The existence of a “pro-Russian contingent” in Ukraine poses a significant problem for Kiev and its overseas backers, in every way. Such sympathies are so widespread that even the mainstream media has acknowledged the reality on occasion. In January, The Economist recorded how residents of “pro-Russian” Ukrainian territory liberated from Moscow’s control in the much-vaunted September counteroffensive “still miss the Russians.” The outlet forecasted a struggle for Zelensky’s government “to win back hearts and minds” in these areas.
There are multiple reports of civilians in contested territory refusing to flee in advance of Russian forces arriving, and rejecting Ukrainian government evacuation programs. In August, an Italian newspaper spoke to locals in Kupiansk. As one explained, when Moscow’s forces entered the region in 2022:
“More than half of [Kupiansk’s] 25,000 inhabitants went to Russia, or at least to the areas of Donbass dominated by the Russian army…The truth is that no one here intends to leave. Those who wanted to have already done it…There remain the elderly, the poor, the infirm and those who see Russians not as occupiers, but as liberators.”
Mercenaries also testify to encountering pro-Russian civilians in Ukraine. One fighter has said their profusion is “a really serious issue,” as they often assist Russian forces, “passing information to the enemy” and significantly complicating Kiev’s war effort. Whether this assistance now extends to partisan operations, to assassinate Ukrainian soldiers and foreign fighters among other incendiary acts, we do not know.
Nonetheless, it is a compelling explanation for why so many are dying far from the frontline, and why authorities seem keen to deceive even families of the fallen about their loved ones’ deaths. There may be many more examples of this phenomenon, actively concealed. Zelensky’s government is exerting ever-increasing pressure and control over local media. Meanwhile, Western journalists ignore these strange developments, despite their monomaniacal obsession with the war enduring largely untrammeled, which can only be regarded as suspicious.