A sanctioned Russian businessman and close ally of Putin linked to the notorious Wagner Group has reportedly taken a personal tour of Russian prisons and recruited prisoners to join the fight in Ukraine.
This is according to new reports released on Saturday by the independent outlet Medizona, which conducted interviews with two prisoners held in different facilities in different regions of Russia. Numerous reports have surfaced in recent weeks about Wagner’s alleged new recruiting campaign among the prisoners, in which the Russian Special Military Force is ostensibly trying to prop up Russian forces exhausted by heavy casualties in the nearly six-month war.
But it seems that this is the first time that Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef”, has personally appealed to his colleagues.
They are primarily interested in murderers and thieves, treat drug addicts with caution, as well as with rapists. It was better, he said, not to be an ordinary murderer, but to count directly from her – you will love her with us, he said. In general, he gave the impression that he was crazy. “
The guest went on to note that there appeared to be no compulsion to join, although “many” had already registered, he said, estimating that at least 200 guests eagerly accepted the offer.
The prisoners were reportedly offered a free amnesty and paycheck for their service, with the man identified as Prigozhin promising they had only a 15 percent chance of death, a figure based on an “experimental” publication of inmates earlier in July.
During an alleged visit by Prigozhin to a penal colony in Rybinsk, in the Yaroslavl region, on August 1, the inmates were told that the “third world war” was underway and that they were given the opportunity to fight for their homeland, according to a report by one of the prisoners to Medezona.
“My comrades go to African countries and in two days they leave nothing alive there, and now they are destroying the enemies in Ukraine. Your decision to serve in [private military company] It is a deal with the devil. If you leave here with me, you will either return a free man or die. You will be required to kill the enemies and follow the commands of the command. One of the prisoners quoted Prigozhin as saying that those who withdraw would be shot at once.
An inmate in a penal colony in Plavsk, in the Tula region, Medizona, was told that the prisoners had received a visit from Prigozhin on July 25 in which he allegedly said: “I have special power from the chief, I do not care, I need to win this damned war at any cost.”
After visits, during which Prigozhin was said to have been accompanied by other Wagner representatives, prisoners were reportedly forbidden to use phones. According to a friend of a prisoner in Plavsk, Wagner’s representatives said they would return for another visit in two or three months if the first wave of conscription “runs out” of inmates.
Several human rights groups have also reported on Wagner’s alleged recruitment drive, including Ross Sedychaya, who said both prisoners and their families reported on Wagner’s initiatives, and Gulagu.net, a rights group that monitors conditions for prisoners in Russia’s penal colonies.
Vladimir Usichkin, founder of the human rights group Gulagu.net, wrote on Facebook recently that a prisoner in a heavily guarded facility spoke of the arrival of Putin’s friend Prigozhin by helicopter in late July and persuaded about 150 inmates to join the war.
Reportedly, the man identified by the prisoners as Prigozhin attempted to communicate with them by indicating that he had spent time in prison himself, according to Mediazona.
So far, according to the independent director Firstkawhich also closely covered Wagner’s alleged recruitment campaign, the mercenary group recruited more than 1,000 inmates in 17 different penal colonies across Russia.
Western officials and investigative journalists have long been accused of financing Wagner, and Prigozhin has denied any links to the paramilitaries, a shadowy group that has left a long string of war crimes allegations in its wake in Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic.
In a statement to Verstka regarding Wagner’s alleged recruitment campaign for the war in Ukraine, Prigozhin’s Concord Management press service reportedly responded with a comment from the businessman in which he avoided responding directly if he was recruiting prisoners but admitted that “in [penal] colonies in the eighties.