A Russian mercenary group associated with President Vladimir Putin is asking prisoners to fight on Ukraine’s battlefront as Moscow suffers heavy setbacks.
What Happened: Wagner Group, a Russian private military company linked to atrocities in different parts of the world, is chasing over 1,500 convicted felons to join Russia’s war in Ukraine, but many are refusing to join, according to a senior anonymous U.S. official.
“Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters,” the U.S. official said, Reuters reported.
Although the Kremlin always has distanced itself from the group, saying it does not represent the Russian state. However, it has also opined that private military contractors have the right to work anywhere in the world as long as they do not break Russian law.
The comments from the U.S. official came after a recent video of Yevgeny Prigozhin – a Russian oligarch, a close confidant of Putin, and the one linked to the Wagner Group – surfaced on social media. In the video, Prigozhin reportedly told the inmates that they would be granted freedom if they fought in Ukraine but would be killed if they tried to desert.
“Nobody goes back behind bars,” Prigozhin said in the video, according to a translation by The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov.
“If you serve six months, you are free. If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we execute you.”
This story was originally published on Sept. 20, 2022