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The Rosgvardia, Russia's National Guard, has begun recruiting pardoned convicts who are veterans of the Wagner mercenary group, the independent Russian news outlet Important Stories reported on Sept. 11.
The recruitment of the former prisoners and mercenaries began in August, according to the investigation. Journalists developed contacts with relatives of the Wagner veterans who claim recruits are determined based on the type of offense committed before their pardon, and are not eligible for officer or leadership positions.
Recruits are required to show proof of their completed service in Wagner, as well as a copy of their pardon.
Wagner recruited 50,000 convicts out of Russian prisons last year, and deployed them in in costly assaults against Ukrainian positions. Prisoners who survived six months of combat had their convictions pardoned upon completion.
According to Important Stories, eligibility requirements for Rosgvardia recruitment may vary, with one recruit rejected from serving in Moscow under Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code, while in Rostov-on-Don recruits convicted under Article 228 may be eligible with specific approval. A complete list of eligibility requirements has not been provided.
In August 2023, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing Rosgvardia units to be armed with heavy weaponry. The move was meant to bolster regime security following Wagner Commander Yevgeny Prigozhin's rebellion against Moscow in June.
Following the sudden death of Prigozhin in late August, Important Stories reported that Wagner advised its mercenaries to begin searching for new jobs due to competition from mercenary groups created by the Russian Defense Ministry.