“I don’t understand how you can kill just like that.” A Murmansk resident who shot an FSB officer in a drunken brawl got pardoned thanks to the war in Ukraine
“I made a mistake [and] literally atoned it with blood. I still remember the man and will never forget him. This burden, even after many years, weighs on me. And I didn’t shoot in the back.”
This comment was left by Murmansk resident Alexander Zabrodin in the telegram channel “Murmansk DTP ChP” under the news of his release. The man serving a sentence for murder was pardoned after he served for six months in the Wagner private military company. At the time of this writing, the post had more than four hundred comments. People actively debate whether participation in war gives a moral right to exemption from punishment and whether a hardened criminal who has been through the crucible of war poses a danger. “How scary it is to let a child alone out into the street, knowing that such individuals are walking around the city!” — wrote the user under the nickname of Black Blago.
The main character of the post, Alexander Zabrodin, entered the discussion. He reminded commentators that there was criminal liability for “discrediting a participant of the special military operation,” and people need not be afraid of him, but rather of drugs and migrants who “humiliate the Slavs in our home.” The Barents Observer asked Zabrodin for an interview and, to our surprise, received consent: the man agreed to talk to present his position to the public.
Alexander Zabrodin was convicted in July 2013. He was charged with homicide, illegal possession of weapons and causing moderate harm to health. The crime was committed on January 20, 2013. Zabrodin and three of his friends celebrated his son’s birthday at a bar. FSB special forces soldier Andrei Novikov and his brother sat at a table next to them. A conflict broke out between the companies and a fight started. Zabrodin and his friends quickly beat up their opponents. Then Zabrodin took a sip of beer, took a wrapped up handgun out of his bag, walked up to Novikov, who was on his knees, and shot him in the head.
The accused stated at the trial that he did not want to shoot, but only intended to poke Novikov with a pistol to intimidate him. The court rejected these arguments. As for the pistol, Zabrodin claimed that he had found it in the forest and carried it with him for self-defense.
The court sentenced Zabrodin to 12 years in a maximum security prison. By then, he had already had convictions for theft, extortion, robbery and illegal possession of weapons. Some local media called him a crime boss nicknamed “Captain.”
Zabrodin served his sentence in the Irkutsk region and spent ten years behind bars. Last fall, Wagner recruiters arrived in the colony. He says that about a sixth of the inmates went to fight with him – one hundred people out of six hundred.
In a telephone conversation with The Barents Observer, the former Wagner mercenary was polite and calm. He explained that he hadn’t gone to Ukraine for freedom – he only had two years left to serve – but for a “good cause.”
“Before this, I watched TV [and] I was outraged by the behavior of the Nazis in Ukraine. I didn’t understand how you could kill people just like that. Kill, rape…”
– Zabrodin reasoned.
He still does not consider himself a murderer and continues to insist after ten years that the gun fired by accident.
“I didn’t want to kill; I’m essentially not a killer, not a cold-blooded scumbag, it just so happened. The circumstances so happened that I had a gun with me. I didn’t want to shoot, I just wanted to hit… What’s the point for me to lie now?”
Zabrodin agrees that he led the wrong kind of life, but claims that he has changed for good and would even like to become a law enforcement officer.
“I’m a different person now. I have no anger towards the [law enforcement] officers. I am ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with these officers and die so that you guys could sit on the couch and write these messages. I’m not drawn to crime, it’s of not interest to me. I realize how I lived, and it was wrong. I talked to the police, I simply told them: guys, just give me a police badge, employ me and I’ll put half the criminals in prison myself.”
The former Wagner soldier says he is not averse to doing social work. For example, he would like to rein in those migrants who, in his opinion, behave inappropriately.
“I was simply, for no reason, harassed twice by people of Asian appearance - Kyrgyz or Uzbeks… They insulted me very harshly. But I just got in the car and drove away. I’m not afraid for myself, but I’m afraid for my children and my wife. They [migrants] work everywhere here, but they shouldn’t behave like that.
I’ll probably get involved in social activities later, when I get back on my feet. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, guys have created squads, and they themselves check the migrants to see whether they have a residence permit or not. Why are they even given Russian citizenship without the [participation in] the special military operation? This is wrong! Do our boys have to die for them to live here?
And if they invite me to speak to schoolchildren, why not? Of course, I’ll go, I have something to tell the kids, given my experience and understanding of how it should be… So that you don’t get lost, and so that you don’t get led astray.”
Zabrodin claims he is indifferent to negative comments about him (which, however, contradicts the ardor with which he responded to them).
“This is either a grandstand play, or a herd instinct… They don’t know me. It’s understandable – such a crime, so much media attention, I was slandered… In reality, everything is not like that. I’m not a scumbag, not an alcoholic, not a drug addict. I lived a wrong life, I realize it, I’m very sorry. I have already gone to church several times for [the murdered] Andrei, and I will definitely come to his grave to talk. This crime was one of the reasons I went to war.”
In Ukraine, Alexander Zabrodin fought in the Donetsk region, in Bakhmut, Kurdyumovka and Kleshcheevka. He says he was wounded – he got a concussion, and his finger was broken by a shrapnel. He has a medal for courage and an award from the Wagner PMC. Zabrodin is ready to return to duty, but his wife and mother stop him.
The man denies that Wagner units committed war crimes. On the contrary, he said, the mercenaries were punished for looting and poor treatment of civilians. When asked whether he killed anyone on the battlefield, Alexander Zabrodin answered briefly: “This is war.”
Alexander Zabrodin is not the only criminal from the Murmansk region who returned home after serving in the Wagner Group. The Barents Observer previously wrote about the participants of a double murder in Lovozero, who were released before serving even a tenth of their sentence. Konstantin Prikhodchenko and Arsentiy Bondarev received large prison sentences in May 2022 for the killing of two local residents, and in the fall they went to war, survived, received state awards and returned home.