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Rights activists say Russia is recruiting remand prisoners to fight in Ukraine
Russia is recruiting remand prisoners to fight in Ukraine, human rights activist and Russia Behind Bars founder Olga Romanova said on Wednesday.
“They’ve started recruiting in SIZOs [pre-trial detention centers]. Not convicts — suspects and indictees. Criminal cases are also being suspended,” Romanova wrote on Telegram. The rights activist said she knew of specific cases from several pre-trial detention centers in the Moscow region and surmised that this practice “has started everywhere.”
Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of the prisoners’ rights initiative Gulagu.net, corroborated Romanova’s claims, saying that Gulagu.net’s hotline has received reports of similar cases from inmates in remand prisons in Moscow and the Moscow region, as well as in St. Petersburg, Ryazan, Tver, and Bryansk.
In early July, reports emerged that the Wagner Group — a notorious Russian private military company (PMC) backed by Kremlin-linked tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin — was recruiting Russian convicts to fight as mercenaries in Ukraine. According to Russia Behind Bars and the media outlet Verstka, the PMC’s recruiters visited at least 21 Russian penal colonies in 13 regions.
In turn, Mediazona reported that Evgeny Prigozhin was personally visiting Russian prisons as part of the mercenary group’s recruitment effort.
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