Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin proudly announced that the first group of prisoners were recruited for pay war against Ukraine completed their contract, cleared of their criminal record—and now free to do as they please in Russian society.
Prigozhin personally attended a farewell ceremony for the group of mercenaries, according to footage released by Russia. RIA Novosti on Thursday.
“Don’t drink too much, don’t take drugs and don’t rape any woman,” Prigozhin told a crowd of mercenaries, some of whom lost limbs and crutches.
“They fulfilled their contract with honor, dignity, one of the first… The first. They’ve done their job in a way that few people can,” he said.
He went on to praise the men and tell them they should be proud of their violence in Ukraine. “You have a call. It’s genetic,” he said, adding that “they were born warriors and have seen that they are warriors.”
“If you’ve ever seen a person coming back from the war, and before that sitting in a prison camp and signing up as a volunteer… It’s important to understand that they are completely full-fledged members of society,” he said. . “Society should treat them with the deepest respect and they shouldn’t break any laws.”
When asked what they plan to do now, some mercenaries replied that they intend to “go back” to finish what they started in Ukraine, while others say they have plans to do so. plan to continue their lives where they left off.
Human rights groups say thousands of prisoners across Russia have been recruited to fight in Ukraine over the past few months. With the Wagner Group promising a full amnesty for them after completing their time in Ukraine — should they return alive — experts have warned the consequences could be catastrophic as they attempt to reintegrate back into the country. back to society.
Even as the group announced the release of about two dozen mercenaries, the shadow army seems to have ramped up its recruitment efforts elsewhere. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the group has now targeted political prisoners in Chechnya.
So far, more than 50 prisoners in two separate penal colonies have been detained by the group, most of them behind bars on charges deemed politically motivated, Ukrainian authorities said. on Thursday.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has previously voiced support for Prigozhin’s methods in Ukraine, praising his mercenaries as “fearless” and “true experts and patriots”.
Behind the scenes, however, Russian security services are said to be growing weary of Prigozhin’s growing influence in the war — particularly his twisted prison recruitment scheme. Independent socket iStories reported last week that officials in the Federal Security Service feared they would be held accountable if things went awry when freed prisoners returned to civilian life in Russia, while Prigozhin will win glory if his mercenaries help Putin win any victory in Ukraine.