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Ret. Col. Milburn: Ukraine committing atrocities, killing Russian surrenders and more

A Ukrainian soldier (Ministry of Defense of Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons)
December 30, 2022

The head of a U.S. private military contractor training and assisting Ukrainian forces said, in a recent podcast interview, that Ukrainian forces have violated conventions on the rules of warfare and he repeatedly alluded to Ukrainian forces abusing and killing surrendering Russian troops.

Andrew Milburn, a retired U.S. Marine colonel who now leads a private military contractor called the Mozart Group, appeared on an episode of the Team House Podcast. Max Blumenthal, an editor at The GrayZone, shared an edited clip of several of Milburn’s comments on the podcast, where he shared his concerns about potential Ukrainian war crimes.

During the over-two-hour-long episode, Milburn and podcast co-hosts Jack Murphy and Dave Parke shared drinks as they discussed the Mozart Group’s work assisting Ukrainian forces. The Mozart Group was named in response to the Russian mercenary company, the Wagner Group, which has been fighting alongside Russian invasion forces in Ukraine.

At one point in the podcast, after one of the hosts refilled Milburn’s glass with some bourbon, they began to discuss instances of Ukrainian forces filming surrendering Russian soldiers.

“Is this [filming of surrendering Russian forces] okay under the Hague? Are there prescriptions against filming [prisoners of war]?” Parke asked, reading a listener question referencing the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions on the rules of war.

“Yes there are,” Milburn replied. “And the Ukrainians are in violation of the Hague Convention. . . yes, the Ukrainians are violating that, absolutely. They’re filming a number of things that they’re doing with POWs that is violating the law of armed conflict.”

Milburn said some Ukrainian violations of the conventions of armed conflict are not obvious, but may merit some guidance to avoid those infractions in future cases.

“Filming interrogations is one of them,” Milburn said.

As he continued, Milburn described instances where Ukrainian forces have shown him videos of Russian prisoners being killed.

“We as U.S trainers absolutely will distance ourselves as soon as anyone shows us a video of killing Russians prisoners,” Milburn said. “We’re like okay, that you have just fucking disqualified you and your whole unit for us being a touch point” for training.

“We’ve been shown those videos plenty of times so my point is it’s a very very dirty war and the Ukrainians are committing plenty of violations of the law of armed conflict and we need to accept — not accept what they’re doing right but call that out,” Milburn said.

Parke responded to those comments by Milburn, saying U.S. forces have, in the past, had to end assistance to other forces if they become aware of potential war crimes. Milburn said that Ukrainian forces don’t usually commit war crimes but that the Mozart Group will follow that practice Parke described as soon as they become aware of potential war crimes violations by Ukrainian forces.

“As soon as we see a video of killing prisoners or anything like that we’re like ‘dudes we’re going to another unit,'” Milburn said.

“You shouldn’t kill dudes who, I mean everyone knows, who surrendered,” Milburn added. “And now there was plenty of that, there was plenty of that, there’s all kinds of atrocities to go around.” 

Earlier on in the podcast appearance, Milburn indicated that while he cares for the Ukrainian citizenry, he views the country’s government as corrupt.

“This isn’t about Ukraine for me I’m not — it’s cool we can get all emotional about Ukraine this and that but Ukraine has a lot of fucking answers to — Ukrainian, you know, government bureaucracy military — um it’s a corrupt fucked up society,” Milburn said. “They let you know so I’m not, I’m no big fan of Ukraine for it. So I care deeply about its people right, I care deeply about the Ukrainian soldiers because they’re human beings and they have a history of being a human beings, but the nationality, the fucking government, no.”

On Tuesday, Milburn offered a statement to Newsweek seeking to clarify the comments he made on the Team House podcast episode.

“In the course of a discussion that lasted over two hours I gave a balanced view of the Ukrainain war effort — praising them where I see strengths but also being candid about areas that need to be improved if the Ukrainian cause is to remain unimpeachable in the eyes of the international community,” Milburn wrote. “My comments were cut down to the barest bones without context — but in essence what I was saying was that the Ukrainians must hold the moral high ground. If — as they rightfully claim — they represent the values of the free world, then they must be meticulous about cracking down on violations of those same principals.”