Putin enlists convicted murderers and jailed ex-military spies for war in Ukraine as Russia steps up prison recruitment in desperate bid to bolster frontline forces
- Russia has turned to recruiting inmates to fight in Ukraine, some murderers
- Vladimir Putin has suffered huge losses in his army since he invaded in February
- Prisoners have been promised £3,000 and an amnesty for fighting in the war
- They are reported to join mercenary group Wegner fighting in the Donbas
Russia is recruiting from prisons in a number of regions across the country.
Among those recruited are jailed ex-military intelligence agents and other former special forces members with previous military service.
Earlier in the war, prisoners serving sentences for the most serious crimes were rejected from the Russian military, but there are now reports that murderers are being recruited as Putin looks for more frontline soldiers.
In some jails, hundreds of inmates are said to be ready to enlist on the promise that they will be granted an amnesty.
Hundreds of prisoners at this prison in Bor, east of Moscow have volunteered to fight in the war
Vladimir Putin has turned to recruiting prisoners to help his invasion of Ukraine after suffering huge losses in the war
The inmates were promised an amnesty for their crimes after six moths of military service in Ukraine
Members of the Wagner mercenary group in Eastern Ukraine – which prisoners who volunteer to fight in the invasion are reported to join
Yet the recruitment drive is seen as a sign that Putin is short of troops ready for the front line despite having a one million-strong army.
Convicts are selected then give two weeks training before being flown to the war zone and placed in ‘assault groups’ on the frontline by Wagner, a private military company, working closely with the Russian defence ministry.
‘Some were chosen by penal colony chiefs,’ a source told Russian opposition channel SOTA.
‘They were taken off prison camp jobs, against their wishes, and “invited” to have a chat.
Prisoners at two jails in St Peterburg were also offered money and their freedom if they agreed to fight in Ukraine
The prisoners are expected to be sent to the front line of the conflict in eastern Ukraine
‘These were former participants of war service, or those with reasonably senior military ranks.
‘Others were just told by a duty officer “Whoever wants to go to war, go put your name forward.”‘
One relative: ‘They explain it by their desire to have an amnesty and live normally after coming back, for the sake of their families and their children.’
At least one convicted murderer is known to have been sent to the Donbas region to fight, with the promise of their sentence being quashed after six months if fighting.
Prisoners are also promised just under £3,000 to fight in the war, with £64,000 sent to their relatives if they are killed.
The FSB security service – once headed by Putin – is reportedly involved in the scheme.