Russian organised crime leader and convicted murderer leaves prison to serve in Ukraine

A notorious Russian organised crime leader has left a penal colony where he was serving a 24-year sentence for murder to fight in Ukraine, Russian news outlet reported Tuesday.

Dmitry Vedernikov, who began his sentence in 2011, is known to be the leader of an organised crime group that was active in the Zabaykalsky region in Russia’s Far East from the early 1990s until 2010. According to the court, the group specialised in stealing foreign cars and demanding a ransom. Vedernikov was found guilty of 52 criminal charges, including murder.

Vedernikov had asked to sign a contract with the Russian military once before, in October, but was turned down because of his age. He was 52.

He appealed to the Zabaykalsky region governor Alexander Osipov, writing:

“Nobody knows the price of freedom like a convict. They’ll only take me prisoner if I’m unconscious, because even if I run out of bullets, I’ll continue fighting with my teeth.”

He also argued that he should be allowed to go to Ukraine to fight because he had already experienced war-like conditions, having previously been shot at.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law legislation granting combatants immunity for the majority of crimes, including murder, theft and rape.

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