More than 5,000 former criminals have been pardoned after their contracts to fight for the group in Ukraine were terminated, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s private military group Wagner, said on Saturday.
Wagner played a more important role in the Ukraine war after the Russian army suffered a series of setbacks last year. The group originally consists of battle veterans of the Russian armed forces.
Elements of Wagner at its headquarters in St. Petersburg (archive)
Prigozhin rose from the shadows and recruited thousands of men from prison, offering them a chance at freedom in exchange for some of Ukraine’s most dangerous battles.
“Currently, more than 5,000 have been released under the amnesty after terminating their contracts with Wagner,” Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in an audio clip posted on the Telegram app.
Prigogine said that only 0.31% of those exempted after serving in Wagner returned to crime, adding that it is ten to 20 times less than the standard indicators.