April 9 (UPI) — Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner Group, said Sunday that the mercenary group “acted honestly” by hiring prisoners to fight in Ukraine as he branded the convicts “heroes.”
Prigozhin’s comments were posted to Telegram by his company in response to a press inquiry on the length of the mercenary contracts and whether prisoners are now serving in the Russian military instead of the Wagner Group.
“Initially, the prisoners were recruited at the Wagner PMC, since it looks somewhat strange if prisoners from places of detention go to the Ministry of Defense, since this, let’s say, somewhat discredits soldiers, officers, contract soldiers in the Russian army,” Prigozhin said.
Prigozhin added that Russian prisoners fought “excellent” and were treated by the Wagner Group “as if they were our own.”
“We took care of them, we covered them, we went with them. The six months that they stayed with us was the most difficult monstrous test, and all of them practically passed this test with dignity. We strictly observed their traditions,” Prigozhin said.
Prigozhin said he does not know how long contracts are for convicts, whether six months long or “maybe for life” as he seemingly admitted they have now been drafted into the Russian military.
“We did everything we promised, and they did everything they promised. We acted honestly, and they are heroes,” Prigozhin said. “What is happening now and what is their fate, you need to ask them themselves.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin in November signed a law to conscript Russian citizens with criminal records into the military as the country mobilizes troops amid the war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin said in a statement that the law will now require most people who have unexpunged criminal convictions as well as those with outstanding criminal cases will be eligible for conscription.
Certain crimes will not be eligible for conscription, including those convicted of sexual crimes against children, crimes related to terrorism, the illegal handling of nuclear material, high treason and espionage.
In September, Putin signed a series of laws cracking down on military dissent and providing incentives for those who volunteer or are conscripted to serve amid his grinding war.
Since the beginning of the war, Russia has faced criticism for failing to pay military reservists and civilian laborers brought into Ukraine.
Russian reservists and volunteer soldiers have reported that Russian authorities have failed to pay them and that they have no experience but are being tapped as commanding officers leading at the company level or higher.
Source : UPI