They return. Prisoners from “PMC Wagner” are released
Vladimir Putin’s decrees on pardoning prisoners recruited to participate in the war in Ukraine are classified. This was announced by his press secretary Dmitry Peskov. From the spring of 2022, information began to appear that Wagner’s PMC was recruiting prisoners in Russian colonies to participate in the war with Ukraine in exchange for a pardon. It has not yet been reported how this is legally formalized.
Dozens of people have already been pardoned after serving in Wagner’s PMC and participating in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine, many of whom are gathering again to go to war again. Others, among whom there are murderers, rapists and robbers, will return to society. And among Russian prisoners, rumors are spreading that for a bribe it is possible to be released from the colony, simulating participation in hostilities in Ukraine.
Worked as needed
“You worked for 180 days as you should. You all showed courage and heroism. Each of you went through what your fathers and grandfathers did not go through, but only your great-grandfathers did during the Great Patriotic War. I remember many of you when I was taken away. Many doubted , to go or not to go. Here, he stands happy, whole and unharmed”, – on the video, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin talks fatherly with a group of former prisoners at the airport.
They were taken from the colonies six months ago and sent to war. Prigozhin’s Federal News Agency covered the release of four groups that had “completed the contract”. An unknown number of prisoners, according to various reports, were released, lost an arm or a leg at the front. Perhaps not all cripples are lucky. Human rights defender Ivan Astashina member of the “Solidarity Zone” initiative, says that he received information that some wounded people were being sent to a prison hospital in Mordovia – in fact, back behind bars.
In the video with Prigozhin, there are a couple of dozen people. Hundreds are sent to war from the camps
Video recordings of Prigozhin with freed prisoners-mercenaries began to appear after the recruiters of Wagner’s PMC once again went to the penal colonies in December. According to a series of messages, the prisoners asked them what percentage of fighters survived from the last set? They did not receive a clear answer to this question, and in December, “Wagner” registered much fewer prisoners than in previous months.
Astashin told Radio Svoboda that according to his source in the penal colony in the Belgorod region, it is possible to assume that approximately one in ten survives.
– On the video with Prigozhin – a couple of dozen people. Hundreds are sent from the camps to the war, the human rights activist notes that such an assessment can be trusted.
– Some people from the video have already been identified as those who in the camps not only worked for the administration, but participated in the beatings and torture of other prisoners. These are people without any moral guidelines – lobbyists, developers. It is possible that they could have been used in Wagner’s PMC in the capacity of barricades, – Ivan Astashin speculates why exactly these people had a better chance of surviving the battle.
The publications “Agentstvo” and “Vazhney istorii” identified several prisoners who were freed with the help of Wagner’s PMC. They ended up behind bars for murders, robberies and drug trafficking.
Not on the front line
– Our volunteer mercenary soldiers left in the fall, so no one has been freed yet. Unless we find out that someone has returned in a zinc coffin, – the administrator of the telegram channel “Resident of MLS” told Radio Svoboda.
He is a convict, runs an anonymous Telegram channel, and is in a penal colony. Prisoners from his colony went to the front less than six months ago, so they have not yet served their time, after which Prigozhin promises release.
Rumors are spreading among the prisoners that it is possible to pay a bribe and leave the colony allegedly with “PMC Wagner”, but not to the front
Judging by the publications of “Zhiytel MLS”, in the current situation, the management of the colony is mainly interested in not taking too many prisoners to the front. Because the FSIN launched a plan for sewing clothes for the military. There may be fewer prisoners from Kyrgyzstan in Russia: according to “Zhiytel MLS”, the authorities of this post-Soviet republic are now preparing to transfer their citizens to prisons in Kyrgyzstan. To eliminate the risk that they will be recruited, that they will be captured or killed in Ukraine.
The correspondent of Radio Liberty sent an email to the Service of Execution of Orders of Kyrgyzstan: at the time of publication of the material, no comment was received from her.
Rumors are also spreading among the prisoners that it is possible to pay a bribe and leave the colony allegedly with “PMC Wagner”, but not to the front. The main thing is not to attract attention for the first six months. This was reported by two interlocutors of Radio Liberty. One clarified that the sums being discussed for release are about a million rubles, but the imprisoned businessmen will need much more.
The Telegram channel “Kepka Prigozhin”, acting as the press service of the so-called “Putin’s cook”, twice published refutations of such rumors. When it turned out that a prisoner of unsporting complexion had allegedly survived six months of fighting on the front line, and another prisoner was much older than 60 years old.
Back to battle
The entire process of recruiting prisoners was illegal from start to finish: the businessman Prigozhin had no right to enter the territory of the colonies, let alone import from there people serving their sentences.
Prigozhin repeatedly emphasized the existence of extrajudicial killings: those prisoners who dared to obey the orders of the “Wagner” commanders. Although the PMC itself, seriously competing at the front with the Russian army, exists contrary to the current legislation of Russia.
The public murder of the prisoner Evgeny Nuzhin did not receive any legal assessment from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB or the Investigative Committee. But Andrey Turchak, secretary of the General Council of United Russia, jokes about “sledgehammer executions” on social networks. Sergey Mironov, the leader of the “Just Russia-Patriots-For Truth” parliamentary party, took a photo with a sledgehammer with the “Wagner” emblem presented to him.
How many prisoners are freed after the war, how many will go back to fight?
Bringing people serving sentences to the front itself is not a new technology, it is also practiced on a limited scale by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Bills proposing to legalize such a practice in Russia were submitted to the State Duma, but they have not yet become laws. However, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin immediately after Prigozhin’s request promised to legislate a ban on the mention of crimes committed by former prisoners who went through the war.
– How many prisoners are released after the war, how many will go back to fight? How many of them were imprisoned for violent crimes? All this is unknown, so it is not something that is seriously discussed among the police. The police are overloaded with a huge number of urgent tasks, so they deal with problems when they arise, – says an interlocutor of Radio Svoboda, connected with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Sociologist Asmyk Novikova from “Public Verdict” studied the adaptation to peaceful life of participants in the Chechen wars. She believes that it is too early to talk about how the return to the society of “Wagner” fighters will take place.
– Everything is different for everyone. There is a risk of generalized alarmists, and this is not entirely true. At least now. It is not clear exactly how many prisoners are participating in hostilities. We also don’t really understand how the return process works. By and large, the mortality rate is unknown. We can assume that he is very high, but we cannot confirm. Combat experience is a very bright event in a person’s life. Often, it is much easier for such people to return to the place of hostilities – it does not matter where – than to build a routine peaceful life. Most likely, most of these fighters will be involved in armed conflicts. It will be easier for them.
Studying the experience of reintegration of veterans of the Chechen conflict, it is difficult for me to say that many of them managed to successfully return to a peaceful life
As for “returning to society” in those cases when a person refuses the military scenario of his social career, a lot depends on families. Family is an important part of reintegration after hostilities. If the family supports and, most importantly, understands its role in rehabilitation, the option of successful reintegration is possible. Studying the experience of reintegration of veterans of the Chechen conflict, it is difficult for me to say that many of them managed to successfully return to a peaceful life. Among the veterans of the Chechen wars there were many suicides, many deviations. Veterans themselves or members of their families often suffered. But the consequences for society as a whole are not easy to assess, – says Novikova.
The publication “Cold” published a detailed interview with a prisoner who lost a leg in the war. He was sentenced to 23 years for brutal murder: he beat a casual acquaintance for several hours, then killed him by smashing his head with dumbbells. He served 10 years, 13 more to go. The newly minted fighter is linking his future with “Wagner”: he plans to do the work available to a person without a leg in the PMC. Judging by the interview, he does not particularly regret the murder for which he was sentenced. Relatives of the deceased also commented on the situation: they are shocked that this criminal was released and is now considered a hero of the SVO.
Another identified former prisoner convicted of drug trafficking also told journalists about his desire to return to the front.