Russian convicts who earned their freedom fighting Ukraine are going home with swagger and a stash of money to burn: NYT

  • Fighting in Ukraine has given some of the ex-convicts Russia recruited their swag back.

  • These men are granted freedom after surviving their military service.

  • Around 15,000 ex-convicts have reportedly returned to Russia, per The New York Times.

Ex-convicts who fought for Russia in Ukraine are heading home with newfound wealth and swagger, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

Olga Romanova, who heads a Russian NGO focusing on prisoner issues, told The Times that around 15,000 ex-convicts have returned to Russia after fighting in Ukraine.

The returning men, who are released without any rehabilitation, often go on to commit crimes once back home. Kirill Titaev, a Russian sociologist at Yale University, told The Times that the wave of “invisible violence” was a “big problem for the society.”

Experts The Times spoke to said some former prisoners gained confidence after their stints in Ukraine, and see their wartime service as a form of rehabilitation.

Fighting in Ukraine has also left them financially well-off, as they were paid a base monthly salary of about $2,000 from The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization, per The Times.

That is also more than double the average salary of a Russian worker, who makes around $756 a month, Russia’s statistics agency said in a survey released in October.

Romanova told The Times that even the local police officers are afraid of the returning convicts and their newly-attained veteran status.

Russia’s reliance on attrition warfare, however, has seen the country continually drawing on its prison population to boost its military manpower.

Wagner first started the practice of recruiting inmates to bolster its ranks, offering the convicts full pardons if they survived a six-month stint in Ukraine. The practice was then adopted by Russia’s defense ministry in 2023.

Sending prisoners to the battlefield, the UK’s defense ministry said in May, would allow Russia “to avoid implementing new mandatory mobilization, which would be very unpopular with the Russian public.

The move, however, has not been without controversy. In November, Russia media reported that two prisoners who were convicted of murdering and eating their victims had been released after fighting in Ukraine.

But even Russia’s prison population is a finite resource. A local official told lawmakers last month that some prisons would be shut down due to “a one-time large reduction in the number of convicts.”

Russia’s need to recruit more troops could put further pressure on its economy.

Besides dealing with crippling sanctions from the West, Russia has had to grapple with severe labor shortages. The Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Economics said in December that the Russian economy had a shortage of around 5 million workers.

“Unemployment is 3% and in some regions, it is even lower. This means there are practically no workers left in the economy,” Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina told lawmakers in November. “The situation with personnel is really very acute.”

Representatives for Russia’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider sent outside regular business hours.

Read the original article on Business Insider


#Russian #convicts #earned #freedom #fighting #Ukraine #home #swagger #stash #money #burn #NYT

Leave a Comment