Wagner mercenaries forcibly recruiting Russian prisoners for war, reports Russia media SOTA

18 September, 05:42 PM
Prigozhin forcibly recruits Russian prisoners for the war (Photo:Video frame of Simon Ostrovsky / Twitter)

Prigozhin forcibly recruits Russian prisoners for the war (Photo:Video frame of Simon Ostrovsky / Twitter)

Russia’s Wagner Group mercenary company is forcibly recruiting prisoners from Russian penal colonies to fight against Ukraine, independent Russian media outlet SOTA reported on Sept. 17.

SOTA journalists published screenshots of correspondence between a pris-oners at the IC-4 correctional facility in Russia’s Mari El Republic, and his ex-girlfriend.

He says that recruiters from the Wagner company came by to select pris-oners serving sentences for murder, grievous bodily harm, burglary, and robbery.

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According to him, in case of refusal, the prisoners are taken away forcibly.

"They call us to the watch, and that's it: they load them into a Black Maria and take them to the airfield," the eyewitness said.

According to the outlet, the recruited prisoners are promised money and amnesty in exchange for six months at the front.

The removal of prisoners from the colonies, according to SOTA, is formalized as a "stage for investigative actions" through the Investigative Committee (IC) and the Federal Security Service (FSB), whose employees "are currently working in the Russian-controlled territories of Ukraine".

Recruitment of Russian "convicts" for the war in Ukraine: what is known

The fact that Russian penal colonies are providing inmates to participate in the war as part of the Wagner mercenary company has been reported by the media since the beginning of July. According to human rights activist and founder of the NGO Russia Behind Bars, Olga Romanova, the prisoners were recruited, including personally, by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin – the owner of the Wagner mercenary company, and a close confidante of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Evidence to support the claim that Prigozhin is personally recruiting prisoners was recently discovered on Sept. 14, when a video appeared on a number of Telegram channels showing a person resembling Prigozhin telling prisoners in a penal colony about the Wagner company, and offers them the chance to sign up.

Prigozhin promises that in six months they will be granted a pardon for their crimes, and the dead will be "buried in the alley of heroes".

"There is no option to return to the clink,” Prigozhin reportedly says on the video.

In case of desertion, the figure resembling Prigozhin can be seen threaten-ing the names with execution.

The press service of the Concord company, which belongs to Prigozhin, in response to a request from the RTVI TV channel, called the man in the video "terribly similar" to the businessman. Prigozhin himself commented on the situation saying: "Either PMCs and convicts are fighting — or your children".

According to the Russian Vot Tak (Like that) media outlet, Prigozhin has already recruited about 1,000 prisoners for Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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