Wagner Group convict-soldiers start returning to Russia
Over 50,000 prisoners accepted a six-month tour in exchange for freedom
“Now prisoners will come back home and two Russias will look each other in the eye,” wrote Russian poet Anna Akhmatova of the release of Gulag inmates. Seventy years later, Russia is once again grappling with the issue of how to handle a mass return of its imprisoned.
Last September, footage emerged of the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, touring Russian prisons, offering inmates the chance of a pardon in return for six months of frontline duty in Ukraine. While the prisoner recruitment programme has now been halted, approximately 50,000 had accepted the offer by mid-February, according to US government estimates, with around 30,000 injured and 9,000 dead.
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For those who survived, Prigozhin seems to have kept his word. At the weekend, he posted online that 5,000 former prisoners have been pardoned and only 0.31% of those have committed another crime within a month of returning from Ukraine, a rate “ten to twenty times less than the standard figures” of re-offending. He added that the crimes committed have been primarily patriotic in nature, intended to “mainly injure people who opposed the actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine and who are harnessed to the Kyiv regime”.
If Prigozhin’s figures are correct, around 16 re-offences have already occurred, although he does not explain the nature of those crimes which were not intended to cause injury to Ukraine. His numbers also presumably do not include those inmates who reportedly paid vast sums to simply be released or declared dead, with the purpose of discreetly slipping back into society without first seeing the battlefield.
Prisoner rights activist Olga Romanova has claimed that the inmate recruitment policy originally proved “very popular” in Russian society, as “everyone prefers it to be the prisoners, rather than their own sons and husbands,” in the line of danger. Indeed, in September Prigozhin directly addressed those with qualms about the idea, demanding: “It’s either private military companies and prisoners or your children — decide for yourself”.
Yet Prigozhin’s figures are merely the latest indicator of growing public anxiety about the prospect of thousands of ex-convicts returning home, now with fighting experience and weapons training. Those with the longest sentences tended to sign up for Wagner, ensuring a high prevalence of murderers and other serious criminals on the frontline.
Russian citizens have taken to online forums to express their worries about an influx of ex-convicts while, last November, mafia boss Grisha Moskovsky warned of Wagner recruits targeting ordinary people upon their return to society. At particular risk are victims and witnesses to crime, who have told the BBC of their fear of revenge from liberated inmates with old scores to settle.
That is before considering the psychological impact of war on already violent criminals. The UK Ministry of Defence noted last week that “the sudden influx of often violent offenders with recent and often traumatic combat experience will likely present a significant challenge for Russia’s war-time society”. Human rights activist Ivan Melnikov has warned of a “colossal relapse of criminal behaviour” and demanded to know “whether psychologists have worked” with recruits who have just endured six harrowing months of battle.
Prigozhin himself has even betrayed some concern about their potential behaviour, advising released recruits in January: “Don’t get too hammered, don’t take drugs, don’t rape chicks, behave yourselves.” In an unexpected foray into dating advice, he even told them to have sex “only for love or for money”.
When Akhmatova wrote her words, the Soviet government was deliberating over how to manage the release of prison inmates in such a way as to avoid influxes into towns and cities. As thousands of serious criminals now return home from battle, often seeking vengeance, two Russias are once again looking each other in the eye.
Looks like the Age of the Sledgehammer is about to descend on Russia.
These aren’t the innocent Zeks released in 1953, even if many had been brutalized in the Gulag.
Besides Vagner itself, Putin’s minions have encouraged every Russian soldier to rape, torture and steal. Now it’s “normal,” and it’s going to be very hard to break their habits–especially when the people they return to look, act and speak pretty much like many Ukrainians.
And when Putin goes (as go he must, after a year of total failure), there will be absolutely nothing standing in the way of total anarchy.
”Besides Vagner itself, Putin’s minions have encouraged every Russian soldier to rape, torture and steal. Now it’s “normal,””
I recommend you watch some youtube from a leading expert Colonel MacGregor, and also Scott Ritter. You are saying crazy stuff – please give links to this being normal. Proper links. And by the way, you can find links – much buried by the search engines algorithm – of horrific things the Ukrainians are doing.
Zalenski has basically taken over all the nation, is conscripting with press gangs to the front – where the life in battle is 4 hours for the Ukrainian forced conscripts with massed Russian artillery.
Zalenski has outlawed the Church, outlawed other political parties, allowed the Na*i militias so famous in Ukraine to have free reign equal to Wagner…
It is EVIL DIRTY WAR! There is a simple answer – Peace. Biden forbids it, as does Boris – but only those, from day one, are the reason this was not ended with a peace treaty – – and so the destruction, death, economic disaster be avoided.
This is Biden and Boris’s war.
and it is going to economically wreck Europe. If you have a pension coming, it may not happen as you plan – the economy is wrecked in Europe and UK – the world really – and this was the huge Nail in the coffin. This was never about freedom – this is about destruction of the world economy. The Ukrainians are the chess board, and will be 100% destroyed by this game played on their lands, with their lives.
Nothing you’re saying is true.
You can have any opinion you want, but the facts are Zelenski has outlawed some political parties, some churches and nationalized television. This is not in dispute.
He’s heavily restricted the Russian Orthodox Church due to its links with the Kremlin, which in a time of war I think is rather sensible. If America was at war with China do you think institutions linked to the CCP would be allowed to operate freely in the country?
This is a slippery slope of course, and led to the internment of Japanese during WWII.
The Japanese interned by the Americans weren’t actively passing information back to the enemy though as far as I’m aware, which is the big difference here
Let us know when Zelensky starts doing that.
Its all true
And the Russians are winning
They took Kyiv months ago !!
The MSM is hushing it all up!
MacGregor + Ritter? Let me guess, is Bakhmut “ABOUT TO FALL!!!!!” ? Maybe the “RUSSIANS MADE MASSIVE GAINS!!!!” ?
They’re a pair of embittered weirdos & Ritter at least is a rabbit in the headlights, sweating bullets until the kompromat drops.
Didn’t you know?
Bakhmut fell MONTHS ago!
The MSM is hushing it all up!
And what ain’t–IS!
Only MacGregor and Ritter know the Truth…
Ritter was too busy exposing himself to underage girls to have time to seriously analyse the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Scott Ritter? I recall when Biden schooled him on foreign policy decisions about 25 years ago. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4842887/user-clip-1998-biden-chastises-weapons-inspector-ritter
Peace can immediately come with a Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.
Sorry, hard to follow the Kremlin logic on this.
First Zelensky was just a comedian-tool of the West, and would give in as soon as Putin reached Kyiv.
And now this Jewish president is Adolf Hitler?!?
Why not save your breath and just call him Satan?
Most Russian talk show hosts already do.
You’re as mad as a frog in a sock.
Go back to the Spectator boards.
Always good to get an evidence-based perspective.
Seriously ML. Get a subscription and go and join your friends there. You can get 15 upvotes for a really good anti-Putin/Russia post without any foundation in reality.
In the no-cash-bail cities in the USA, you can commit any crime and be let out the next day without having to serve with any Orchestral Group. Indeed any criminal from anywhere can parade over the Southern Border of that country, no knowledge of classical music required.
We should have kept out of this regional conflict from the beginning.
We are more responsible for the destruction of a generation of Ukrainians, the destruction of its cities, industry and education. The causing 12,000,000 refugees, most who will not come back wrecking Ukraine even more, the million injured, crippled, and PTSD inflicted, wile bankrupting ourselves and military stockpiles and bring on a global famine and energy crisis – than these murderer Prisoners are.
Give it up.
Only one person is responsible for all the deaths and destruction in Ukraine. Putin.
You realize that is a crazy comment, one born of ignorance so vast it cannot be replied to. haha, and people up-vote it…
And yet you still replied !
Are you like 4 years old? I see all the new upvoters are most un unherd-like. Most of us here have some sort of analytical abilities and are able to triangulate information and sources. Sadly, that is not these net new contributors to the unherd boards.
IOW, you want us to allow people like the Vagnerites free rein over all of Ukraine, and over 44 million people?
…Instead of the tiny corner of Ukraine, where, so far, the bacillus has been sealed off?
Nobody in the West actually wanted to help Ukraine in the first few days. They, not us, saved their country.
But now you want us to sacrifice 44 million people…to Vagner. For what?
…Oh, I know!
So you can feel ever-so righteous about yourself.
Actually because I am anti war.
Have you learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? Both places we destroyed for NO REASON! But at great costs.
There was no need for this war. Let Russia kill the rulers of the corrupt Oligarchy and replace them with their own corrupt Oligarchs. Also Stop the Na*is.
Make it never to be EU and Nato – and the nation suffers no catastrophe – and Europe is not economically destroyed, and global famine is not caused, and a global depression not forced.
This WWIII of Biden and Boris is the most evil war in 80 years.
You may be anti-war but Putin isn’t. Therein lies the problem.
Let Russia wade in & do as they please? You honestly expect Ukraine to roll over without a fight?
You’re living in a state protected by nuclear weapons, in turn protected by the strongest alliance on the planet.
But you’re soooo upset–because the Ukrainians are resisting being killed?!
Perhaps we could ask them to send you a contribution?
After all, they seem to be willing to sacrifice almost everything…
Wait until the de-dollarization kicks in…
By “we” of course you mean Russia.
Yes, that’s what Neville Chamberlain thought. He was anti war after the destruction of WW1. He was happy to come to agreement regarding a far off country of which we know little to ensure peace in our time. That ended well didn’t it.
Er, this region happens to be ours.
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