Vladimir Putin has a ‘liquidator squad’ to publicly execute deserters, say ex-convicts who were recruited for the Ukraine war.
Prisoners who were transferred from their prison cells to the war front with the Wagner Group of private mercenaries say they have witnessed commanders kill disobedient comrades.
Ex-con Yevgeny Novikov said in a report by polygon media and the independent media Mozhem Obyasnit: ‘Those who disobey are eliminated, and it is done publicly’.
He said that ‘liquidator squads’ deal with troops deemed problematic.
Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is shown pardoning former inmates who served six months fighting in Ukraine.
He recalled: ‘The bombardment began, one of the prisoners lay down and did not cover his own.
‘The shelling stopped, he backed off, and the one on top yelled at him: ‘Why didn’t you move forward?’ And they killed him. The superior dies if his team defects.
Another ex-con, Alexander Drozdov, a former prisoner who was recruited by the Kremlin’s private army, said many in its ranks are “completely crazy”, with murderers, rapists and drug addicts fighting Putin’s war.
He said that some prisoners disobey orders, but that others “are just screwed and bulldoze their way”.
Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, recruited prisoners by offering them freedom from Russia’s hellish prisons in exchange for joining the country’s failed invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, the first batch of Russian prisoners to be pardoned after the fighting in Ukraine returned home, and Prigozhin offered them the bizarre advice: “Don’t rape women, drink too much or do no good.”
Last week, the head of Putin’s Wagner mercenaries released the first batch of Russian prisoners for pardon after fighting in Ukraine.
One view shows military uniform amid the rubble of a destroyed building that was supposedly a vocational school used as temporary housing for Russian soldiers.
Having survived six months of Putin’s meat-grinder war, the inmates have now been released and Prigozhin said the motley crew of convicts should be “treated with the deepest respect by society.”
It marks the beginning of convicted murderers, rapists and thieves being able to return to the Russian streets with their sentences overturned.
As Russian casualties continued to mount to staggering numbers, Putin employed the Wagner Group to recruit prisoners to bolster troop numbers.
The scheme started by Prigozhin, a Putin mediator who is now fast becoming a major populist political and military figure in Russia, has led to tens of thousands of prisoners being able to get out of jail.
The men are formally pardoned by Putin, as president.
Prigozhin said of ex-convicts who have survived six months at the front: “It is necessary to understand that they are fully capable members of society.”
Critics in Russia say many convicts were forced to join Putin’s war in an abuse of human rights, then used as cannon fodder.
Prigozhin told critics that if the prisoners did not fight, his own sons would be called to war.
Last month, a Ukrainian military adviser said Russian prisoners were being “killed in large numbers” after being pushed to the front.
A senior US military official also said the convicts are being used to “take the brunt” of Ukrainian fire to clear the way for “better-trained forces.”
Among the murdered former Wagner prisoners was 23-year-old Vadim Medvedev, jailed for robbery and drug offences.
Ukrainian army fires an anti-aircraft gun, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Bakhmut
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private military company Wagner Group, went to a penal colony in Mordovia to offer prisoners a chance at freedom in exchange for fighting in Putin’s war in September.
He told the prisoners that they will be pardoned if they survive six months in the war against Ukraine. They should take their own lives instead of being taken prisoner, he said.
Drug dealer Dmitry Chuikin, 47, was murdered in Ukraine as he sought to earn his freedom by staying alive for six months.
Another convict, Vadim Grigoriev, whose crimes were not disclosed, was posthumously awarded the Order of Valor.
Wagner’s fighters have been at the forefront of Moscow’s offensive in the Ukraine.
The group’s presence has also been reported in conflict zones such as Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.
In September, Prigozhin was seen in a prison yard, offering inmates contracts to fight in Ukraine under a chilling set of conditions.
If you get to Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we’ll consider it a desertion and we’ll shoot you. Any questions guys? said the man.
“Nobody turns themselves in,” he said, adding that recruits must have grenades in case of capture. If you die, your body will be repatriated to the location you listed on the form.