Russia is promising prisoners a $31,000 payout if they get injured, soldier says. It’s likelier than they realize.

  • Russia is offering lavish pay to convicts to fight in Ukraine, according to a new report.
  • It’s the same recruitment gambit used by the now-dormant Wagner Group.

Russia is paying convicts as much as $2,000 a month if they fight in Ukraine, with a promise $31,000 if they are injured, a soldier said.

However, the convict-turned-fighter said he and others were given little warning of how horrific the combat would be.

The remarks were made by a Russian “Storm Z” soldier — the unofficial designation for units often made of formerly incarcerated fighters.

The BBC reported his comments, made to the to US-funded outlet Sever Realii.

In the BBC’s translation, the soldier said that he was enticed by a “hunky-dory” vision and large sums of money.


As well as the wage and the injury promise, there was a $52,000 payout to families of a killed soldier, he said.

The figures are vast for most Russians — one estimate puts the average monthly salary at around $750.

The soldier said, though, that the pitch omitted that they would be sent into a “total meat-grinder.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update this week that “Storm-Z” battalions were first conceived as an elite force.

But, it said, in reality they are staffed by Russia’s worst soldiers — convicts and regular soldiers marked for punishment. The UK update said the units were the “lowest priority” for logistics and medical help.


The BBC also reported that the units are formed mostly of convict soldiers, or soldiers re-assigned there as a punishment. The Institute for the Study of War previously assessed that these groups are unlikely to be highly effective “due to poor morale and discipline.”

“The Storm fighters are just sent to the most dangerous parts of the front, in defence and in attack,” the open-source outlet Conflict Intelligence Team told Reuters in early October.

There is evidence that Russia has been emptying its prisons to boost its fighting numbers, replicating the recruitment tactic formerly used by the private Wagner Group militia.

In April, the UK’s Ministry of Defence estimated that at least 10,000 had been recruited to the Russian army proper by using this playbook.

The Washington Post, citing Deputy Justice Minister Vsevolod Vukolov, said that the Russian prison population had plummeted since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


A rough calculation by rights advocate Olga Romanova for the outlet suggested that Russia recruited around 100,000 to its formal army, on top of 50,000 former convicts sent to war with the Wagner Group.


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