Shipped off to slaughter: 400 murderers and sex offenders are seen being sent to Ukraine after agreeing to fight in Putin’s war in return for a pardon… if they survive
- Hundreds of violent criminals will have combat training and ship off to Ukraine
- Unsettling video showed dozens of prison vans shuttling inmates to the camps
- It comes as Russian leaders scramble to reinforce dwindling troop numbers
- Head of PMC Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin was seen recruiting inmates
- Prisoners will be pardoned if they survive six months, promised Wagner chief
- Those who fled or expressed doubts after joining will be shot dead, he warned
Up to 400 violent criminals are being shipped off to fight for Russia on the frontlines in Ukraine after recruiters promised them a pardon in exchange for six months of service.
Prisoners from penal colonies in Tambov region who signed up for the deal were seen filing into prison vans destined for a ‘training camp’ in the south of Russia, unsettling video footage has shown.
After perfunctory military instruction the murderers, sex offenders, burglars and other convicts will be despatched to the frontline following the mass jail release.
Deserters have been warned they will be summarily shot – but those who survive six months will be pardoned by Putin, and allowed to resume their lives no matter how heinous their crimes.
The Russian leader and his military commanders are scrambling to recruit as many new fighters as possible without having to introduce mass conscription in a desperate attempt to reinforce dwindling troop numbers across the border.
It comes as close Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, who heads up the infamous private army known as the Wagner Group, personally travelled to a prison in the Mordovia region to deliver a speech encouraging inmates to sign up as mercenaries earlier this week.
Prisoners from penal colonies in Tambov region are seen being shuttled to combat training camps before being shipped off to Ukraine
Head of the PMC Wagner Group of mercenaries Yevgeny Prigozhin is pictured amid a recruitment drive at a prison in Mordovia
Prigozhin said that Ukraine’s lightning counteroffensive near Kharkiv this past weekend – which saw Russian troops abandon their positions in an en-masse retreat – was a ‘disgrace’ his private army could reverse
‘If I were a prisoner, I would dream of joining [the Wagner group] in order to be able not only to redeem my debt to the Motherland but also to repay it with vengeance,’ Prigozhin told inmates
PMC Wagner mercenaries pose at Popasna, the Sievierodonetsk district of the Luhansk Oblast, eastern Ukraine
Prigozhin, 61, did not mince his words and threatened to recruit prisoners’ children should they refuse the offer.
‘The first sin is deserting. No-one deserts, no-one gives up, no-one surrenders. You’ll be taught what to do regarding surrender.
‘Two grenades which you must have on you. One grenade for our foes, and one for yourself.
‘Those who do not like this… send your own children to the front,’ Putin’s crony declared.
‘It’s either the PMC [Private Military Company] and prisoners, or your children. It’s up to you.’
Those who die on the front line ‘will be buried as heroes’, Prigozhin told the inmates.
So far Putin has baulked at launching a full-scale mobilisation of new recruits, but there are rumours he is poised to announce partial conscription in certain regions.
Prigozhin meanwhile indicated to loyalist Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that Ukraine’s lightning counteroffensive near Kharkiv this past weekend – which saw Russian troops abandon their positions in an en-masse retreat – was a ‘disgrace’ his private army could reverse.
‘They are patriots and cannot allow the disgrace of their Motherland,’ Prigozhin claimed.
‘Secondly, they are professionals of the highest level and many of them… have gone through dozens of wars, preparing themselves for the greatest day when their beloved Motherland will have to be defended.’
Prigozhin graduated as a trusted Kremlin fixer and gained the moniker ‘Putin’s chef’ after being his personal cook at several banquets (Putin left, Prigozhin right)
Putin’s chef Yevgeny Prigozhin (right) pictured at the grave of one of Russian prison inmate killed in Ukraine
Yevgeny Prigozhin (middle) pictured with other Wagner Group fighters at LNR at the beginning of August 2022
He went on to describe his mercenaries as ‘warriors, unlike many Kremlin critics who never leave their plush cars’.
They would not ‘use Chanel perfume and drive in Nappa leather cars, but climb basements and trenches to keep the situation under control’.
‘Of course, if I were a prisoner, I would dream of joining this friendly team in order to be able not only to redeem my debt to the Motherland but also to repay it with vengeance.’
Prigozhin, who graduated as a trusted Kremlin fixer and gained the moniker ‘Putin’s chef’ after being his personal cook at several banquets, is also tasked with overseeing several so-called ‘troll farms’ – hordes of workers and volunteers who manipulate social media networks to publish a sea of pro-war propaganda inside Russia and abroad.
While Putin’s chef continues his whirlwind recruitment tour of Russian prisons, defence minister Sergei Shoigu faces being summoned to a Russian parliament hearing amid his forces’ dismal performance in eastern Ukraine.
It is virtually unknown for the State Duma to summon a defence minister to account for himself.
But Russia’s armed forces have been openly criticised by military commentators this week after losing control of large parts of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region to a lightning advance by Ukrainian forces.
Shoigu, who has held the defence post for 10 years, is said to have been ‘sidelined’ by Vladimir Putin following Russia’s failures in Ukraine.
Russia’s lower house of parliament will consider summoning Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) to face questioning over his disastrous military campaign in Ukraine
Russia’s armed forces have been openly criticised by military commentators this week after losing control of large parts of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region (Pictured: A Ukrainian national guard serviceman walks on destroyed Russian APCs near the recently retaken area of Izyum, Ukraine, on Thursday)
Under Shoigu’s leadership, Ukraine claims a staggering 54,050 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began. An estimated 250 aircraft, 4,690 armoured personnel vehicles and 2,199 tanks have also been destroyed (Pictured: Ukrainian serviceman repair a captured Russian tank in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Thursday)
Senior lawmaker Sergei Mironov, a strong supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and head of the small pro-Kremlin ‘Just Russia’ party, was quoted in the Kommersant newspaper as saying that the State Duma Council, which manages the chamber’s business, would discuss the matter on Monday.
Mironov had tweeted on Wednesday that his party had proposed the session with Shoigu ‘so that the deputies can speak with him behind closed doors and ask all the questions that interest us and the citizens’.
Russia’s defeat in the Kharkiv region was its biggest since it was driven back from an advance on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in the first weeks of the invasion, which began on February 24.
Under Shoigu’s leadership, Ukraine claims a staggering 54,050 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began.
An estimated 250 aircraft, 4,690 armoured personnel vehicles and 2,199 tanks have also been destroyed, according to Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.
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