Wagner’s Convict Fighters Are Now Committing Murders in Russia: Reports


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin are seen. Convicts pardoned by Putin after serving time in the Wagner Group have been accused of murder after returning home.ALEXEY DRUZHININ; SPUTNIK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Russian convicts conscripted as mercenary soldiers by the Wagner Group are allegedly committing murders upon their return from service, according to a new report from The Guardian on Saturday.

Operated by restauranteur and Russian oligarch Yevgeny PrigozhinWagner Group is a prominent Russian paramilitary organization that has been called by some a private army acting at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Given its status, the Wagner Group has been consistently and extensively involved in the invasion of Ukraine.

Upwards of 50,000 Wagner fighters are estimated to have taken part in the Ukrainian conflict, with roughly 40,000 of them being convicted criminals conscripted into service. Most of these men, according to The Guardian, are believed to have died on the battlefield, but the newspaper further reported that those who managed to survive six months into their service have been granted pardons by Putin. Prigozhin has estimated that around 5,000 men have received their freedom in this manner.

According to the newspaper’s findings, these pardoned fighters, among them men who were convicted of murder and domestic abuse, have raised alarms about public safety as they return to their homes in Russia and its claimed territories. Some have already been linked to alleged murders like Georgiy Siukayev.

Siukayev was pardoned in the fall and sent home to Tskhinvali, the capital of the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia. He had previously been convicted of murder and sent to prison in 2014. On Monday, he was arrested and accused of fatally stabbing 38-year-old Soslan Valiyev. In response to the incident, Wagner claimed in a statement that Siukayev had been acting in defense of bystanders that Valiyev was harassing. Locals have disputed that characterization, however, with one former South Ossetian leader telling The Guardian that Valiyev was a “kind and harmless guy whom everyone, with rare exceptions, loved as their own.”

Another incident was reported in late March and saw the arrest of 28-year-old Ivan Rossomakhin for the alleged murder of 85-year-old Yulia Buiskich in the small town of Novyj Burets, roughly 60 miles east of Moscow. Rossomakhin was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2020 for murder. He is accused of killing the elderly woman with an axe on March 29, one day after police agreed to remove him from town during a public meeting. Relatives of Buiskich placed the blame for her death squarely on Putin and Prigozhin, saying that they “released a sick bastard into society.”

Newsweek reached out to Russian officials via email for comment.

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