There have been reports for months of that Moscow Ordinary criminals from the penal colonies will be offered freedom in exchange for mobilizing for the war front in Ukraine. Now, a mobile phone video released by opposition groups appears to confirm the information.
It shows a bald man in an olive green military uniform with two medals similar to the Heroes of the Russian Federation, the country’s highest award. He is very similar to businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known for his close relations with the Kremlin. According to national media, he will keep the most famous Russian private army, the Wagner Group, in which it will fight UkraineWhich earned him the award “Champion”. Russia“.
Presumably in prison, the protagonist of the video – released on Wednesday by supporters of the opposition Alexei Navalny and some channels of the messaging platform cable Promises to raise the men money and freedom in exchange for six months of fighting as part of his Wagner collection. Explaining that the war in Ukraine He is “cruel”, claiming that he only wants “fighting soldiers”. Kremlin critics consider the photos to be real.
What was revealed is not surprising: “Prigozhin works hard and personally visits the penal colonies,” Olga Romanova, director of the human rights organization Russia Behind Bars, told DW in August (Russia behind bars).
The first confrontation between Russian prisoners took place in mid-July in Lugansk, on the eastern edge of Ukraine. Romanova calculates that by the beginning of August, the businessman has recruited at least 2,500 prisoners, and believes that this number may reach 60 thousand – equivalent to 10% of the total prison population in Russia.
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin is said to have personally participated in the recruitment of Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine – Photo: Mikhail Metzel / TASS / Imago
Urgent need for new soldiers
After the successful counterattack of the Ukrainian forces in the area Kharkiv The hype for general mobilization intensified, particularly on the part of nationalist bloggers. However, the Kremlin continues to deny the start of the war, referring only to a “special military operation” aimed at the “disarmament and disarmament” of the neighboring country.
Thus, new fighters are not directly recruited by the Ministry of Defense. On Thursday, for example, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov spoke at cable Kadyrov urged a decentralized “self-mobilization”: each Russian region could equip and train “at least 1,000 volunteer fighters,” and in this way the state would have a force of 85,000 men, “almost an army.”
In a television interview at the end of August, a representative of the Ministry of Defense said Moscow It reached a similar number, 90 thousand, as a national mobilization target. According to the calculations Kyiva Russia He was already going to send 160,000 soldiers for the invasion Ukraine.
Recruitment of volunteers is carried out in several ways, including in the occupied Ukrainian territories. According to the newspaper KommersantThere are more than 40 territorial units of this type. As the regular army is expanded: at the end of August the president Russian President Vladimir Putin He ordered the recruitment of 130,000 new soldiers.
The decree enters into force on January 1, 2023, however, given the losses on the Ukrainian front, more men are urgently needed. According to Ukrainian calculations, since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, more than 50,000 enemy soldiers have been killed. In turn, at the beginning of August, the armed forces of the Arab Republic of Egypt United State Russian losses are estimated at 20,000.
A new life at the expense of the lives of others
Therefore, the prisoners will be mainly mobilized for the advanced battle front. Speaking to Radio Times, British defense analyst Michael Clarke described the move as a “crypto stimulus”, where Moscow It is to “scrape the barrel” to collect as many units as possible. It could open a bloodier chapter in the conflict, as long-term prisoners in particular have little to lose, other than poor training and a lack of military discipline and strategy.
Among the recruits in the prison are dangerous criminals, but also petty criminals like 20-year-old Ruslan. His cousin Svetlana (both names changed by newsroom) told DW that he committed a misdemeanor and was only sentenced to one year in prison.
At first he refused the idea of going to fight Ukraine, but in early July there was a conscription into the prison, where he and about 70 inmates showed up. Svetlana protested to the prosecution, but to no avail. In August, Ruslan called him from UkraineHe asks you to “get him out of there” urgently. will try.
However, among the many prisoners, there is a high willingness to go to war, due to the lack of other points of view, says Olga Romanova: “For prisoners, this is often the only possibility to start a new life: taking the lives of others. human rights.
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