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Russia Behind Bars: Prisoners are now signing 18-month contracts to fight in Ukraine

Russian prisoners who have been recruited by Russia’s Defense Ministry since February 2023 are now signing contracts to serve the Russian military for 18 months, reports Olga Romanova, head of the NGO Russia Behind Bars, on Telegram. Romanova writes that she learned of the new practice in the Sverdlovsk and Yaroslavl regions. 

Until recently, Romanova notes, prisoners were signing up for six months of service. In March 2023, Wagner Group founder Evgeny Prigozhin announced that more than 5,000 former prisoners had been freed, since summer 2022, after fulfilling their contracts with his private military company.

Romanov believes that increased length of contracts may connected to the Russian authorities’ admission that the war will continue into 2024.

“They’re counting on fighting next year also,” she said.

Wagner Group pioneered the recruitment of Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine, during the summer of 2022. By that winter, according to Russia Behind Bars, more than 50,000 prisoners had been recruited. Russia’s Defense Ministry took over prisoner recruitment in early 2023.

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