A video, in which a man resembling the alleged head of Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, recruits prisoners of a Russian penal colony for the war in Ukraine, has appeared online, reports media outlet SOTA.
“I represent a private military company, it’s called PMC Wagner,” a man in the video says. “This war is hard, not anything like the Chechen ones.”
“The minimal age we accept is 22. If [a recruit] is younger, then we need a document from the closest relatives, stating they’re not against [the recruitment],” he goes on.
Then, the man says that he previously had fought on the same side with convicts. “40 men from Saint Petersburg, from strict regime [prisons], repeat offenders.”
The man resembling Prigozhin promises pardons to those who will remain alive after participating in the hostilities. “In six months, you can go home, having received your pardon. Those who want to stay with us — they stay with us. So there’s no way you’ll have to go back to prison.
When it comes to those who arrive and say ‘I think I’m in the wrong place’ on the first day, we make a note saying ‘deserter’, and then they get shot.”
At the end of his speech, the man that looks like Prigozhin asks all the convicts interested in being recruited to line up and wait for their turn. “Only Allah and God [get you out of prison]. In a wooden box. Meanwhile, I get you out of here alive. But I don’t always return you alive.”
At the beginning of August, Mediazona reported, citing the convicts they talked to, that Yevgeny Prigozhin had personally visited several penal colonies to recruit prisoners for the war.
Two convicts — one from the city of Rybinsk and another from the town of Plavsk — contacted the media outlet. The men did not know each other, however, they told Mediazona basically identical stories about a man, who had introduced himself as Yevgeny Prigozhin and, according to their descriptions, had looked like him, coming to their penal colonies.
The man told convicts they could become members of PMC Wagner and go to the war in Ukraine. For their service, the man promised them monthly 100,000 rubles (€1,600) payouts, bonuses, 5 mln rubles (€80,000) to the family in case of a fighter’s “honourable” death, as well as pardons, expungement of the criminal record, and a Russian citizenship to those that do not have one.