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, says UK MOD
- Offenders who took up arms for Putin will now have their sentences commuted
- Raises the prospect of violent criminals traumatised by war being released into society
Russia is set to release thousands of convicts back into society after pardoning them for fighting in its barbaric Wagner mercenary group, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said.
In the MoD’s latest intelligence update it said ‘violent offenders’ with ‘traumatic combat experience’ who took up arms for Vladimir Putin will now have their sentences commuted.
Wagner group recruitment was particularly high in autumn of last year amid the partial mobilisation to refresh Russia’s depleted troops. Those that joined will now be freed from their sentences after undertaking six months of service on the frontline.
But half of the criminals that did join the Wagner group have now been killed or wounded, the British intelligence said.
The Wagner group has become increasingly important to Putin amid his brutal war, with the group increasing its profile in recent months after spearheading several attacks and claiming responsibility for the capture of Ukrainian territory.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was filmed recruiting inmates in one of Russian colonies back in September 2022
Yevgeny Prigozhin was pictured dropping off convicts to fulfil their 6 months contracts in Ukraine
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, is said to have angered Putin
In the intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence said: ‘In the coming weeks, thousands of Russian convicts who have fought for Wagner Group are likely to be pardoned and released.
‘Wagner prisoner recruitment peaked in autumn 2022, with inmates being offered commutation of their sentences after six months of service.
‘Although approximately half of the prisoners recruited have likely been killed or wounded, evidence from Russia suggests the group is following through on its promise to free survivors.’
It added that certificates issued to released Wagner veterans were ‘endorsed by the decree of President Putin’.
But the MoD said that the freeing of the recruited prisoners will cause significant personnel problems for the Wagner group and for Putin’s military.
British intelligence believes that the Wagner group is now banned from recruiting prisoners. Putin and the group’s leader, Vevgeny Prigozhin, are understood to be in disagreement dispute the Wagner boss bringing success on the battlefield.
There are reportedly fears within the Kremlin that following the Ukraine war, Prigozhin could try and unite his mercenaries to turn on Putin and seize power in Russian outskirt regions.
Prigozhin has also been publicly critical of Russia’s army and military leadership. He has something of a fondness for lambasting and discrediting top army officials and anyone else in his way, angering many in the Russian government who want him reined in.
Prigozhin and his mercenary group are currently believed to be battling in Bakhmut in Ukriane’s Donbas region. Pictured: A Russian tank explodes after being hit by a bomb dropped from a drone in Ukraine (undated footage)
Vevgeny Prigozhin has continued to demand that the Kremlin supply him with ammunition, reinforcements and further support
The MoD’s intelligence update also added: ‘In addition, 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.’
Prigozhin and his mercenary group are currently believed to be battling in Bakhmut in Ukriane’s Donbas region. Fighting in the area has raged for months, producing some of the bloodiest and longest battles of the war.
But while they have claimed successes in towns like Soledar, Popasna and Lysychansk, the group has been losing troops rapidly. As many in its criminal ranks are freed, it is unknown as to 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 further support. After losing more fighters, Prigozhin’s anger and tensions with Moscow is only expected to increase.