Putin’s daring move backfires as convicts recruited for Ukraine war create havoc

The decision to fill the ranks of Russian fighters in Ukraine with convicts is backfiring.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary Wagner Group who died in a plane crash in August, ran a massive recruiting campaign among prisoners, asking them to fight against Kyiv in exchange for seeing their sentences pardoned.

The Russian Ministry of Defence is believed to be also looking at convicts to bolster its troops without carrying out a mass mobilisation, which many in the country would likely find upsetting.

One man, sentenced to serve 17 years following the brutal murder of a 23-year-old girl, is believed by the victim’s uncle to be serving as a free man in Ukraine, after being recruited by the Russian Defence Ministry.

But freeing from jail, among others, people convicted of heinous crimes is proving a double-edged weapon for Moscow.

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Mr Prigozhin claimed in June some 32,000 of the ex-prisoners that had joined his organisation were returning to Russia.

Some of them, have been accused of resuming a life of crime upon their return.

A Wagner ex-convict is on trial in the southern city of Krasnodar accused of the murder of two people – a charge he denies.

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Another in a village east of Moscow allegedly killed an elderly lady while drunk.

The daughter of two alleged victims of yet another former convict who served in Ukraine told Sky News: “I believe that anyone who was in prison, even if he went to war, then he should be sent back when he was done for such serious crimes.

“They should not live among us because cases like this do happen.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to beef up his forces in Ukraine for months.

In August 2022 he ordered the Russian military to increase the number of troops by 137,000 to a total of 1.15 million.

In July this year, he signed a law raising the upper age limit for Russian reservists by five years.

And a new bill will raise next year the maximum age at which men can be conscripted from 27 to 30.

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