Russia will soon release thousands of convicts with ‘traumatic combat experience’ back into society after pardoning them for fighting in Putin’s meat grinder war, UK MOD says.
- Criminals who took up arms for Putin will now have their sentences commuted
- Those who did six months of service on the front lines will now be released.
Russia is ready to release thousands of convicts back into society after pardoning them for fighting in its barbaric Wagner mercenary group, the UK Ministry of Defense has said.
In the latest Defense Ministry intelligence update, it said “violent criminals” with “traumatic combat experience” who took up arms for Vladimir Putin will now have their sentences commuted.
The Wagner group’s recruitment was particularly high in the fall of last year amid partial mobilization to refresh depleted Russian troops. Those who joined will now be released from their sentences after serving six months on the front lines.
But half the criminals who joined the Wagner group have now been killed or injured, British intelligence said.
The Wagner group has become increasingly important to Putin amid his brutal war, and the group has raised its profile in recent months after leading several attacks and claiming responsibility for the capture of Ukrainian territory.
Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was filmed recruiting inmates in one of the Russian colonies in September 2022.
Yevgeny Prigozhin was photographed leaving convicts to serve out his 6-month contracts in Ukraine.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, is said to have angered Putin
In the intelligence update, the Defense Ministry said: “In the coming weeks, thousands of Russian convicts who have fought for the Wagner Group are likely to be pardoned and released.
‘Wagner’s prisoner recruitment peaked in fall 2022, with inmates being offered commutation of their sentences after six months of service.
“Although about half of the prisoners recruited have likely been killed or wounded, evidence from Russia suggests the group is making good on its promise to release survivors.”
It added that the certificates issued to the released Wagner veterans were “supported by President Putin’s decree.”
But the Defense Ministry said the release of the conscripted prisoners would cause major personnel problems for the Wagner group and Putin’s army.
British intelligence believes that the Wagner group is now prohibited from recruiting prisoners. Putin and the group’s leader, Vevgeny Prigozhin, are believed to be in disagreement over the fact that Wagner’s boss brings success on the battlefield.
There are reportedly fears within the Kremlin that after the Ukraine war, Prigozhin might try to unite his mercenaries to turn against Putin and seize power in Russia’s outlying regions.
Prigozhin has also been publicly critical of Russia’s military and military leadership. He has a penchant for criticizing and discrediting top military officials and anyone else who gets in his way, angering many in the Russian government who want to be controlled.
Prigozhin and his group of mercenaries are currently believed to be fighting in Bakhmut, in the Donbas region of Ukriane. Pictured: A Russian tank explodes after being hit by a bomb dropped from a drone in Ukraine (undated images)
Vevgeny Prigozhin has continued to demand that the Kremlin provide him with ammunition, reinforcements and more support.
The Defense Ministry intelligence update also added: “In addition, the sudden influx of often violent criminals with recent and often traumatic combat experience is likely to present a significant challenge to Russian wartime society.”
Prigozhin and his group of mercenaries are currently believed to be fighting in Bakhmut, in the Donbas region of Ukriane. Fighting in the area has raged for months, producing some of the bloodiest and longest-running battles of the war.
But while they have scored successes in cities like Soledar, Popasna and Lysychansk, the group has been rapidly losing troops. As many in his criminal ranks are released, it is unknown how much power Prigozhin’s men will continue to wield in the war.
Amid the fighting in Bakhmut, Prigozhin has continued to demand that the Kremlin supply him with ammunition, reinforcements and more support. After losing more fighters, Prigozhin’s anger and tensions with Moscow are expected to increase.