Instead of a pardon from President Vladimir Putin, Russian prisoners who went to fight against Ukraine now receive a conditional release, and they have to serve until the end of the war. This is stated in the investigation of the Russian service of the BBC.
In the summer of 2022, the founder of PMC “Wagner” Yevgeny Prigozhin began recruiting prisoners from Russian colonies. Since February 2023, the Ministry of Defense of Russia is engaged in sending prisoners to the front. Recruited prisoners were initially promised money and amnesty after six months of participation in hostilities.
In the middle of 2023, Putin confirmed that he pardoned prisoners returning from the war in Ukraine. Among those pardoned were those convicted of murder and other serious crimes.
BBC journalists learned from the reports of relatives of the prisoners and the stories of the war participants themselves that recruits from the colonies now conclude contracts with the Ministry of Defense of Russia for one hour, and not for six months as before. The contract with the agency is automatically renewed.
In addition, the convicted no longer receive a pardon from Putin and fight in the status of parolees. The norm about this, the publication reminds, appeared quite recently in the law. This is not parole, as a court decision is required to obtain it. For parole, a decision of the colony or the military enlistment office, where the prisoners sign a contract, is sufficient. The president’s participation in this process is also not required, the authors of the publication specify.
Prisoners will be able to obtain full release and remission of criminal convictions only in the event of a state award or dismissal due to the end of the war, loss of health or reaching the age limit.
Journalists studied the messages of relatives of the “Storm Z” fighters in chat rooms and came to the conclusion that the recruitment of special forces prisoners had stopped in August of last year. Since September, prisoners have been enrolled in “Storm V” units.
According to data analyzed by the BBC together with Mediazona and a team of volunteers, as of January 23, more than eight thousand prisoners have died in the war against Ukraine. More than a thousand of them fought in the “Storm Z” or “Storm V” detachments.