July 4th 2022
A report by Russian magazine “Важные истории” (Important stories) reveals that the mercenary group Wagner is recruiting convicts inside St Petersburg colonies.
The convicts are promised 200,000 rubles for six months if they agree to go to fight in Donbass, and freedom if they survive the conflict. If someone dies, 5 million rubles are to be paid to his family. However this is only lip service and no written contract is expected to be written. The information was revealed by relatives of prisoners serving sentences in correctional colony 7 “Yablonevka” and correctional colony 6 “Obukhovo”.
The proposal was made to the inmates by “inspectors” urging them to “defend the motherland.” The prisoners would be taken to the border with Ukraine under escort like regular prisoners. The convicts place would be at the front line to “detect nazi”, and by the words of the inspectors themselves only about 20% is expected to make it alive. However, the Russian penitentiary system is notoriously known for bad treatment of prisoners and even acts of tortures. The prospect of getting out even under those conditions could therefore be attractive to some.
Despite initial claims that only former service members would be considered, it soon became clear that all applicants were put on the list. Out of 200 volunteers, Important Stories reports that 40 people were enrolled. It seems some inmates were told the mission was to rebuild destroyed infrastructures in Eastern Ukraine and not to fight. Mine clearing was also cited as possible task.
Far away, a former military member detained in the penal colony of Nizhny Novgorod allegedly also expressed his wish to join Wagner and fight in Ukraine. The PMC told him to wait for their visit on site, implying that the mercenary group is making a tour of Russian prisons.
This information is released at a time were Wagner Group is actively taking part in combat actions in the Luhansk oblast. The PMC is reportedly deployed for highly exposed missions and therefore knows a very high attrition rate compared to regular army groups. This would explain why the group is so desperate to find new trainees to the extent of recruiting in prisons. Given the already infamous record of Wagner exaction against civilian populations, the employment of criminals is a very worrying prospect for locals in occupied areas.