A Russian court in the city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced Pavel Nikolin, a convicted criminal and former member of the Wagner mercenary group, to six years and eleven months in prison for shooting at local police, Russian state-run media outlet TASS reported on Dec. 18.
In 2022, Russian authorities allowed the Wagner Group to recruit prisoners in Russian jails. Russia's Defense Ministry has also recruited from Russian jails. According to the contracts they signed, the convicts were to be pardoned in exchange for military service.
Nikolin was previously convicted of robbery and was serving a prison sentence when he was allegedly recruited to join the mercenary group to fight in Ukraine, RFE/RL said previously, citing Russian Telegram channels. He allegedly deserted from his unit, taking a machine gun with him.
According to TASS, Nikolin shot at police officers in December 2022 in the suburbs of the city of Novoshakhtinsk, near the border with the region of Donetsk Oblast occupied by Russia.
One police officer was wounded. Nikolin fled the scene but was later detained, and told arresting authorities that he was a member of Wagner.
TASS did not specify if Nikolin was understood to have had a motive for the shooting.
The late founder of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in June 2023 that 32,000 prisoners who fought for the mercenary group had returned to Russia.