Russian prisoners ‘only good for stealing alcohol’: Alexei Navalny mocks war recruitment drive

Vladimir Putin critic, imprisoned for more than a year, pours scorn on attempts to recruit criminals to fight in Ukraine

RUSSIA CORRESPONDENT, IN ISTANBUL

20 September 2022 • 9:30pm

Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, has mocked the Kremlin’s recruitment drive in prisons for troops to deploy to Ukraine, claiming Russians behind bars are “only good for stealing alcohol on the front lines”.

Mr Navalny, one of Vladimir Putin’s most scathing critics, who has been in prison for more than a year, poured scorn on Moscow’s attempts to recruit convicted criminals as soldiers for Russia’s depleting army.

The 46-year-old said hopes that the war in Ukraine could turn in Russia’s favour because of cut-throat fighters recruited from prisons were misplaced.

“Many are under the impression that these categories of convicts are some sort of brutal fighters, kind of like in Suicide Squad”, he said in a statement published by his team on his social media on Tuesday.

“I can tell you that 90 per cent of the time a killer here is a heavy drinker who once got so drunk that he stabbed his neighbour, drinking buddy or, most commonly, his wife 18 times.”

Mr Navalny recalled that under the Soviet Union military recruiters refrained from hiring convicts even in the most desperate moments for the Red Army.

“Of course, if the combat mission [in Ukraine] were to walk around the area asking people for moonshine, the convicts would make perfect soldiers,” he said. “They would also be perfect for carrying out orders to drain fuel from military hardware, sell it and use the money to buy booze.”

Mr Navalny was commenting on an extraordinary video that emerged last week, showing the founder of an infamous private Russian military contractor appealing to convicts in a prison colony and promising them amnesty on their sentences if they signed up to fight in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch known as “Putin’s chef”, toured jails looking for physically fit convicted killers and robbers, who he said would make the best army recruits.

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