Support The Moscow Times!

190 Criminal Cases Opened Against Pardoned Wagner Fighters Returning from Ukraine – Reports

Members of the Wagner group. BelTA News Agency (CC BY 3.0)

Russian authorities have opened at least 190 criminal cases against Wagner mercenaries who were pardoned in exchange for fighting in Ukraine, the independent media outlet Vyorstka reported Monday.

Russia's Defense Ministry and the Wagner mercenary group have recruited heavily from Russian prisons to bolster their manpower in Ukraine, promising convicts a pardon in exchange for military service. In July, Wagner said that some 32,000 former prisoners recruited by the mercenary group had returned to Russia.

According to Vyorstka's tally, ex-prisoners were most likely to be tried were theft (83 cases), traffic violations (27 cases), drug-related crimes (23 cases), and murder or attempted murder (20 cases) after returning to Russia.

Some former Wagner fighters were charged with up to eight crimes, Vyorstka said.

The outlet added that former convicts appear to be released again after receiving a fine, mandatory or forced labor, or a suspended sentence.

Russian media have also recently reported several cases of convicted killers being freed after fighting in Ukraine.

Last month, Nikolai Ogolobyak, 33, who was sentenced to 20 years for the ritualistic murder of a group of teenagers in 2008, was freed seven years early after serving with the military in Ukraine.

In September, pardoned convict Sergei Rudenko, who was freed after fighting with Wagner, was sentenced to 11.5 years in prison for murder and theft.

In another case, pardoned prisoner Alexei Khlebnikov, who also served with the Wagner Group, was arrested in August for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl.

The Kremlin said last month its policy of pardoning prisoners in return for their involvement in the conflict in Ukraine remained unchanged.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more