At a time when Ukraine is slowly recapturing some of its areas held by Russian forces, a report from The Guardian says that Moscow has been recruiting prisoners to fight the war. The country is luring its imprisoned thieves and killers by promising them they would be freed if they enlist, in an attempt to compensate for the country’s acute personnel shortages on the battlefield in Ukraine.
As per reports, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin and the reported head of the Wagner group, an allegation he has repeatedly denied, has been recruiting inmates.
Last week, a leaked video of a man closely resembling Prigozhin, who was telling inmates that they would be freed if they served six months with his group, went viral on Russian social media. This was the first time the enlistment process had been captured on camera.
“When I saw that video, I thought Prigozhin must be on a very busy schedule because it was exactly what he told us as well. He promised we would be free if we fought for six months. But he warned that few would come back,” Ivan, one of the inmates of penal colony No 8, in the Tambov region 300 miles south of Moscow, told The Guardian.
As per the report by The Guardian, four prisoners and three close family members of inmates across different penal colonies in Russia gave similar accounts of how Prigozhin was personally conducting recruitment in prisons.
Roughly 120 inmates agreed and are now fighting in Ukraine after a one-week training course, Ivan said, who declined the offer. But now speaking to The Guardian, he has said, “I will join if Prigozhin comes calling again. I have 11 more years to spend in jail. Either I die in this shithole or I die there, it doesn’t matter that much. At least I’ll have a chance to fight for my freedom.”
All prisoners interviewed said they were promised a presidential pardon after six months and a salary of 100,000 rubles (£1,400) a month.
“The truth is,” Ivan told The Guardian, the inmate from Tambov, “we, thieves and killers, are now fighting Russia’s war.”
Meanwhile, in the latest development on the Russia-Ukraine war, World leaders meeting at the United Nations in New York denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Moscow-installed leaders in occupied areas of four Ukrainian regions announced plans to hold referendums on joining Russia in the coming days.
In the apparently coordinated move, pro-Russian figures announced referendums for Sept. 23-27 in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory, or an area about the size of Hungary.