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Media: Russian convict recruits no longer receive pardons for fighting in Ukraine

by Martin Fornusek January 26, 2024 9:15 AM 2 min read
A Russian serviceman patrols a destroyed residential area in the city of Sievierodonetsk on July 12, 2022, amid Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine. (Getty Images)
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Russian army recruits drawn from prisons no longer receive pardons nor full promised payments for fighting in Ukraine, the Russian independent outlet IStories reported on Jan. 25.

Moscow has been recruiting convicts for its war since summer 2022, first under the auspices of the Wagner mercenary company and then directly under the Russian Defense Ministry.

The prisoners, even those convicted of violent crimes, were promised a pardon after completing a six-month military contract.

Most of the convicted recruits serving in the Russian military were assigned to the Storm Z assault units, effectively used as cannon fodder and suffering heavy casualties. The situation changed in September 2023, when Storm Z was replaced by Storm V formations, the BBC reported.

These new units reportedly have different conditions, as the contract is signed for a year instead of six months and is automatically prolonged.

"According to your documents, you are being released on conditional release. Everything is exactly the same as for contract soldiers, but there is no longer a pardon, and you will serve until the end of the special military operation (a Russian official term for its invasion of Ukraine)," the BBC cited a message in an online group used by the convicts' relatives.

Instead of pardon, the prisoner recruits are released on parole, which can be changed into pardon only if they receive a military award, suffer serious injuries, reach the age limit of service, or the war ends, the BBC said.

IStories also documented cases where the convicts did not receive payments for injuries or the full salary they were promised by recruiters.

The BBC noted that this new system does not require a presidential signature. This will help avoid undesirable media coverage where Russian President Vladimir Putin pardons convicted murderers and other criminals.

Dozens of men convicted of violent crimes were allowed to return to Russia in the past. In some cases, these ex-convicts were accused of new crimes.

The Guardian: Convicts returning to Russia after fighting for Wagner strike fear in Russian women
The Guardian reported on Aug. 19 that convicts returning to Russia as free men after fighting for the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine have led Russian women to fear increased threats of murder, rape, and domestic violence in the country.
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