The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation recruits convicts instead of “Wagner”: why do they need prisoners

Anastasia Pechenyuk08:33, 15.02.23

The MO wants to manage the convicts thrown into the war directly.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation creates a reserve of cannon fodder from convicts , striving also to manage them directly through their own private military companies.

It is likely that the Kremlin seeks to use the convicts for future attacks despite their limited combat capability, as the Wagner PMC previously did, analysts at the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) say.

The day before, CNN reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense in October 2022 recruited prisoners who were subsequently transferred to Soledar, Donetsk region, into the formations of the 2nd Army Corps of the so-called “LPR”. These prisoners claimed to have been ignored by Wagner. They also complained to journalists about the abuse of the Russian Defense Ministry and their use as cannon fodder.

“The representative of the Main Directorate of Military Intelligence of Ukraine, Andriy Usov, said that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov are creating a reserve of convict cannon fodder, which they could directly manage through their own private military companies of the Ministry of Defense. The integration of the Russian Ministry of Defense of these convict forces into formations “LNR” may also indicate that Russian military leaders are trying to avoid restructuring some of their conventional units to accommodate under-trained prisoners.ISW has previously observed cases of mistreatment of Russian proxy militias by Russian conventional forces, and the Russian command, perhaps sought not to violate the morale of the unit by integrating convicts,” analysts say.

The ISW also emphasizes that the recruitment of prisoners by the Russian Ministry of Defense in the fall of 2022 coincided with an effort to criticize the military command of the Russian Federation from the leader of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In addition, human rights activists from also noted that in Moscow they were afraid of Prigozhin because of his ability to recruit and train convicts. At the beginning of 2023, Wagner lost the opportunity to train mercenaries at separate training grounds, since they were occupied by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Recruitment of prisoners in PMC Wagner

In July 2022, PMC “Wagner” began to actively recruit prisoners from Russian colonies for the war against Ukraine, the leader of the PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, took part in the process, no longer hiding his involvement in the “organization”. In exchange for half a year of participating in the war, prisoners who survived were promised pardons . According to various estimates, the PMC sent about 40-50 thousand Wagnerites to the front. By November 2022, it was the prisoners who were the main force of PMCs; by the beginning of 2023, the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed 77% of their number.

Recruitment to the Wagner PMC has been significantly reduced in recent weeks , according to Ukrainian intelligence reports. The day before, the leader of the PMC announced the end of recruitment , and later he said that he was deprived of the opportunity to recruit prisoners due to opposition from the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

(C)UNIAN 2023

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