Kremlin Pardons Prisoners in Russia But There’s a Catch
A prisoner looks forward to nothing but his freedom. However, a prisoner in Russia can get a presidential pardon, but there’s a catch – he must fight the war in Ukraine.
Fake Freedom of Prisoners in Russia
The Kremlin freed 100,000 inmates to send to Ukraine to fight for Russia. This only shows the Defence Ministry keeps recruiting convicts despite the blocking access by the Wagner Mercenary Group to prisoners.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian prison had approximately 420,000 inmates. However, the number declined to around 266,000, according to Deputy Justice Minister Vsevolod Vukolov.
Russian troops rely significantly on prisoners extracted from concentration camps. These prisoners were promised pardons, a custom introduced by the late Wagner Mercenary Group Chief, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin.
He started recruiting convicts to fight Ukraine a year ago and accumulated a 50,000-strong battalion. He was a close comrade of Russian President Vladimir Putin until he launched a short-lived rebellion against the government in June 2023.
The recruited prisoners in Russia helped the Wagner Mercenary Group to take control of Bakhmut. Three months following the seizure of the country, Prigozhin perished in a cynical aeroplane explosion.
During the peak of Wagner’s boss recruitment in 2022, he hopped from one Russian prison to another. He urged inmates to make amends for their crimes ”with blood.” Likewise, they were offered their freedom. In just two months the number of male prisoners in Russia plummeted by 23,000.
According to Vukolov, 10 years ago their contingent in prisons reached about 700,000 people. Currently, they have about 266,000 prisoners in penal colonies.
“This is a shocking number. There were 420,000 prisoners at the beginning of the war, and we know that Prigozhin took about 50,000. Usually, the influx of newly incarcerated people is roughly similar, so we should be seeing a figure closer to 400,000 now,” said Olga Romanova, Russia Behind Bars human rights organization director.
Her estimate includes those people in pretrial detention centres. It’s where her group documented cases of defendants recruited to go to war even before they were tried. Prigozhin promised them that after six months, they would be given presidential pardons if they were still alive. If in battle they refused orders or retreated, they are threatened to die.
What is Storm-Z?
Such army squadrons are generally known as “Storm-Z.” The letter Z depicts one of the symbols of Putin’s designated ”special military operation” against Ukraine. Additionally, it’s the initial letter of the Russian word ”zek,” or ”inmate.”
The moniker is private and can be applied to various Russian army units operating in different parts of Ukraine. Generally, the detachments are regarded as dispensable forces thrown into a war with little or no consideration for their servicemen’s lives. There’s also evidence that other army unit members are sent to the Storm-Z detachments for violations. It includes drunkenness or disobedience.
According to Sever Realii, a Storm-Z member and a former prisoner, the recruiters promised them with a salary of a salary of 205,000 roubles a month. This is equivalent to about $2,000 or £1,700. If they get injured, they will get a payment of 3m roubles, equivalent to $31,000 or £26,00. If they get killed in the fight, their relatives or family will receive 5m roubles equivalent to $52,000 or £43,000.
However, after being deployed to war in Ukraine, he realised he was sent into a ”meat-grinder” with no appropriate weapons or fighting gear. Besides, he wasn’t briefed regarding the real situation on the frontline. Although he lost a leg in the battle, he still survived, unlike his unfortunate fellow fighters.