May 30, 2023

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Wagner chief says Russia has already pardoned 5,000 former criminals after they fought abroad in Ukraine

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said Saturday that more than 5,000 former criminals have been pardoned after their contracts were terminated to fight in Russia’s Wagner mercenary army in the war with Ukraine.

The Wagner Group has taken a more prominent role in the Ukrainian war after the Russian army suffered a series of humiliating defeats last year. Prigozhin recruited thousands of men from prisons, giving them a chance at freedom in exchange for fighting in some of Ukraine’s most dangerous battles.

“So far, more than 5,000 people have been pardoned after completing their contracts with Wagner,” Prigozhin said in an audio clip posted to Telegram. He added that only 0.31 percent of them committed crimes again. According to him, this figure is ten to twenty times lower than standard indicators.

Member of the Wagner Group and former criminal after he was captured by Ukrainian soldiers near Bashmoyet. © AFP

The Wagner Group has received a lot of criticism for its decision to use ex-convicts as soldiers in the war with Ukraine. One former prisoner stated that he had had little training before being sent to the front, and also said that he did not expect to survive his first mission.

The White House estimated last month that nearly 30,000 soldiers from the Wagner Group have been killed or wounded since February 2022, the start of the Russian invasion. This is what the spokesman said at a press conference. However, the Wagner Group does not intend to withdraw. According to Bloomberg, Prigozhin responded last week that the Wagner Group will remain in Ukraine “as long as our country needs us.”

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