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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.
Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to have begun recruiting prisoners in mid-2022 to fight alongside Wagner mercenaries and the regular Russian military in Ukraine and offered them amnesty if they survived six months on the battlefield.
However, Prigozhin claimed in early February that Wagner had "completely stopped" recruiting prisoners to fight alongside Wagner mercenaries and the regular Russian military in Ukraine.
In late June, Prigozhin said that as many as 32,000 prisoners had already returned to Russia after fulfilling their military contracts. Many of them were convicted for committing violent crimes against women.
According to the Guardian, one of those convicts includes Vladislav Kanyus, who gained notoriety across Russia in 2020 for brutally murdering his ex-girlfriend Vera Pekhteleva.
Kanyus was sentenced to 17 years in prison but Pekhteleva’s mother received two photographs from an anonymous account on WhatsApp in mid-May showing that he was free and fighting in Ukraine.
The Guardian wrote that Pekhteleva's family put in an official request to prison authorities to confirm whether or not Kanyus was still in prison but they were told that he had been transferred to a prison in Russia's Rostov region, which is located near the Ukrainian border, and disappeared.
Vyacheslav Samoilov is another Russian convict who went to fight in Ukraine for the Wagner Group, according to the Guardian. Samoilov murdered 33-year-old Olga Shlyamina in March 2021 and dismembered and hid her body.
The families of victims who were murdered and those who survived violent crimes now live in fear for their safety, as they are aware that the perpetrators of these crimes are no longer incarcerated and could be roaming free in Russia.
"They are returning to a situation where they will now be setting the rules of the game. They are all super-traumatized, nobody is working with them to socialize them, and I think there will be a wave of murder, rape, and domestic violence," Alena Popova, a Russian women’s rights activist, told the Guardian.