Russia Has Recruited Over 100,000 Convicts Since War Began

( – Since February 2022, it is reported that Russia has enlisted more than 100,000 inmates from penal colonies to participate in the war in Ukraine, as disclosed by Vladimir Osechkin, a Russian dissident and the leader of the anti-corruption initiative. This revelation brings attention to what critics deem as President Vladimir Putin’s “exploitative” recruitment tactics.

Osechkin, currently in exile, is known for his extensive network of informants within Russia’s prison system, and he shared with news outlets details of the recruited prisoners, accompanied by images from security footage within a prison. These figures were independently verified by another group who advocates for rights for prisoners in Russia.

The large-scale recruitment of prisoners highlights the acute shortage of manpower faced by the Kremlin. It also suggests Putin’s preference for employing “disposable” personnel, specifically convicts, as opposed to mobilizing the younger urban population to mitigate potential political consequences.

The pool of recruited prisoners encompasses individuals convicted of serious crimes, including murderers and a Satanist found guilty of the murder of 4 teens. The recruitment initiative commenced with the Wagner Group, a now-disbanded mercenary unit, during the summer of 2022. However, the Kremlin assumed control of this source of manpower earlier this year.

According to Osechkin, the Wagner Group enlisted nearly 50,000 prisoners nationwide in 2022. In 2023, the Russian Defense Ministry recruited around 52,000 convicts for participation in the conflict in Ukraine. Notably, more than 1,000 of these prisoners reportedly lose their lives in the war every week. The recruitment practices have faced severe criticism, with instances like Putin pardoning Vladislav Kanyus, convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, for his involvement in Ukraine.

This move prompted Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, to state that such individuals “atone with blood for crimes on the battlefield.” Investigative reports reveal that at least 17 high-profile murderers were granted pardons to participate in the Ukraine conflict in 2022 and 2023. Some of them allegedly committed further crimes upon their return to Russia.

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