Putin sending so many criminals to fight in Ukraine that Russian prisons empty

Russian prisons and penal colonies are being closed down with close to 100 jails scrapped already because so many prisoners have died fighting in Ukraine.

As many as 150,000 Russian prisoners, including murderers, rapists, robbers and gangsters were press-ganged and recruited into the military to go to the frontline. And if they were not killed in Russia ’s waves of cannon fodder in battles such as the fight for Bakhmut they were sent home, paid and set free.

The scheme set up by now murdered Wagner Group mercenary outfit Yevgeny Prigozhin meant many prisons almost emptied and crooks tried harder to avoid jail. Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s former aide Prigozhin died aged 62 when his private plane was brought down mysteriously last year having taken off from Moscow.

But he and his recruiters are believed to have persuaded 50,000 prisoners to sign up, whilst a further 100,000 have been freed to fight by the Russian MoD. From March 2023 to the same period this year the number of prisoners decreased by 20% with as many as 88 jail institutions closing down out of 900.

A penal colony in Russia

A penal colony in Russia
AFP via Getty Images)

To reduce the costs of putting prisoners behind bars another three more colonies will shortly be closed in Siberia, with more set to be closed in the next year. Before the invasion of Ukraine the number of Russian prisoners was around 420,000 and now it is believed to have reduced to around 336,000.

Out of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers who were killed in the year-long battle for Bakhmut more than 20,000 are believed to have been ex-lags in Wagner uniforms. It is believed that via the Wagner Group the Kremlin has had to pay £1 billion in posthumous payments to the families of those who died up to August last year.

When fighting was at its worst Wagner was losing around 200 men a-day from being sent in waves towards the Ukrainian defences. Russia expert Bruce Jones said: “The decline in the Russian prison population is mainly related to the illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as changes in Russian social conditions.

“It is due to tens of thousands of conscripted convict mercenaries being annihilated or seriously disabled in Putin’s conflict with Ukraine. Also criminals are conscious of the likelihood of being sent to war and killed if found guilty and jailed. Criminals are more “choosy” and careful in the choice of the crimes that they commit. And there are fewer police officers available and fewer arrests being made, with the criminal justice system, because of fewer resources, also under strain.”


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