Heavy losses by Russian troops forced Moscow to turn to its prisons for fighters. Photo: AP
The heavy losses that Russia is suffering in the war in Ukraine have led President Vladimir Putin to make a controversial decision. According to Western intelligence sources, the Russian government has begun recruit fighters from the prison populationpromising them freedom in exchange for going to fight in Ukraine.
The news was picked up and expanded by numerous media outlets. One of them, the American magazine News weekclaimed that the Russian media have claimed that since the beginning of July the trial was made by the Wagner Groupa private military contractor linked to the Kremlin.
The offer consisted of a payment of almost $ 3,500 and an amnesty in exchange for a fight for six months in the Donbas region, provided the prisoner can survive. Other inmates in St. Petersburg prisons would be offered compensation of up to nearly $ 85,000 in the event of death.
Russian President Vladimir Putin forced to change tactics in Ukraine. Photo: REUTERS
The CNN chain also reported on the matter and claimed to have looked into it hundreds of chats between inmates and their familiesdiscuss the proposal. According to activists and NGOs, the offer is taking place in hundreds of prisons across Russia, among criminals of all kinds, but with certain limits.
“They will accept murderers, but not rapists, pederasts, extremists or terrorists,” said one of the sources consulted. “An amnesty or pardon is offered in six months. Some are talking about 100,000 rubles a month, another about 200,000 (between $ 1,600 and $ 3,200). Everything is different,” she added.
The prisoner consulted by the American chain stated that at least 50 men had been accepted and that 400 had asked to enter.
“In my case, if it’s real, I’m in favor,” said the prisoner. “It can make a real difference to me: being in jail for almost a decade, or getting out in six months if you’re lucky. But that’s if you’re lucky. I just want to get home to the kids as soon as possible. If that option is possible. , why not?”.
So far, Russia has suffered up to 75,000 casualties in the war in Ukraine. Photo: AP
According to another relative of the prisoners consulted by a Russian media, the entire agreement will be verbal and there would be no official record of the promised rewards. The orders, it seems, are not identical. Some men will be required to go and fight, while others will be required to do so repairing the infrastructure damaged by the fighting.
For Vladimir Osechkin, the leader of the NGO Gulagu.net, dedicated to monitoring the conditions of prisoners, the vast majority of prisoners will be used as “decoy soldiers”with the intention of exposing Ukrainian positions and exposing them to professional Russian soldiers.
Putin’s change of tactics
The Russian president’s decision to use a private contractor to try to add more troops points to this, on the one hand more soldiers needed than previously estimated. But they are also proof that traditional methods are not being used for some reason.
For the British medium The independentwho also broke the news, this strategy indicates that Moscow does not want to risk an appeal for general mobilization with the risk that opposition to the war will grow and spiral out of control.
A soldier in the Donbas region, the region where the Russian advance stopped. Photo: AFP
In turn, it signals it the vast majority of these recruits are sought after in rural areasprecisely with the intention of avoiding urban areas, where protests and discontent are more on the surface.
Western military sources have found that Russia has managed to arm a new contingent of between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers, but it is not yet known where they will be sent. In recent weeks, the Russian advance in the Donbas region has been slowed down by strong Ukrainian resistanceand Moscow needs to speed up its movements.
Despite the setbacks, analysts don’t believe it Russia gives up on its maximum goal which is controlling Ukraine, but rather is adjusting its deadlines. Thinking in years rather than months.
According to some estimates, Russia has so far suffered about 75,000 victims: 20,000 of whom have died, while the rest are soldiers rendered unable to fight.
The Wagner Group, an obscure appendage of the Kremlin
For several years now, numerous NGOs have denounced the Wagner Group as a dark appendage doing the dirty work of Moscow, from Ukraine and Syria to Africa.
The mercenaries hired by Wagner were first spotted in 2014 alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. It is also noted that they played an important role during the Russian intervention in Syria in support of President Bashar Al Assad.
Then Wagner’s range of action widened: in Libya his men would be alongside the forces of Marshal Khalifa Haftar and in the Central African Republic they would be part of the army “instructors”.
His was also noted presence in Sudan, Mozambique or Venezuela. A cluster of suspects but without any formal proof and always with Russian denials.
According to the state news agency TASS, Dmitri Utkin is in charge of Wagner’s operations. Little is known about this man in his fifties who is said to have it comes from military intelligence.
In December 2016 he was received in the Kremlin for a ceremony in honor of Syria’s “heroes”. He was also photographed with President Vladimir Putin.
With information from agencies and CNN