‘Putin’s boss’ Yevgeny Prigozhin tours prisons for Wagner recruits to fight in Ukraine, reports say

A sanctioned Russian businessman and a close ally of Putin, linked to the notorious Wagner Group, reportedly visited Russian prisons personally and recruited prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

This is according to a new report published on Saturday by the independent mediazona service, which interviewed two prisoners held at different facilities in different regions of Russia. There have been numerous reports in recent weeks of Wagner’s alleged new recruiting rush among prisoners, where private Russian military forces allegedly try to support Russian forces that have been depleted by heavy casualties in the nearly six-month war.

But it seems to be the first time that Yevgeny Prigozhin, commonly known as “Putin’s cook”, has personally appealed to prisoners.

“They are primarily interested in murderers and robbers, and they treat drug addicts cautiously, just like rapists. Better, he said, don’t let them be ordinary murderers, but simply calculating – you’ll like it with us, he said. Overall he gave the impression of a maniac, ”said Mediazona, one of the unnamed prisoners.

The inmate noted that there appeared to be no compulsion to join, although “very many” had signed up, he said, estimating that at least 200 inmates were willing to accept the offer.

Prisoners were reportedly offered a free pardon and payment in exchange for their service, and a man identified as Prigozhin promised that they only had a 15 percent chance of death, a figure reportedly based on an “experimental” placement earlier in July.

During Prigożyn’s alleged visit to the penal colony in Rybinsko in the Jarosław region on August 1, prisoners were told that “World War III” was underway and they were given a chance to fight for their homeland, an account transferred by the prisoner to Mediazona.

“My people go to African countries and in two days they will not leave anything alive there, and now they are also destroying enemies in Ukraine. Your decision to serve in [private military company] it’s a deal with the devil. If you walk away with me, you will either return the free man or you will die. You will have to kill enemies and follow the orders of the leadership. Those who withdraw will be shot on the spot, ”said the prisoner Prigożyna.

Russian billionaire and businessman, owner of the catering company Concord Yevgeny Prigozhin in 2016.

Mikhail Svetlov

An inmate at the Plawsk penal colony in the Tula region said Mediazona prisoners received a visit from Prigozhyn on July 25, in which he allegedly said: “I have a special authorization from the president, I don’t give a shit, I need to win this bloody war at any cost.

After visits, during which Prigożyn was reportedly accompanied by other representatives of Wagner, prisoners were reportedly blocked from using their phones. And according to a friend of one of the prisoners in Pławsk, Wagner’s representatives said they would return for another visit in two or three months if they “run out” of prisoners from the first wave of recruitment.

Several human rights groups also reported on alleged recruitment by Wagner, including Rus Sidyashaya, who said that both prisoners and their families had reported Wagner’s attempts, and Gulagu.net, a human rights group that monitors prison conditions in Russian penal colonies.

Vladimir Oseczkin, founder of the human rights organization Gulagu.net, recently wrote on Facebook that a prisoner at a maximum security facility mentioned Putin’s friend Prigozhyn, who arrived by helicopter in late July and persuaded about 150 prisoners to join the war.

According to Mediazona, a man identified by prisoners as Prigozhin reportedly tried to contact them, noting that he himself had served a prison sentence.

So far, the mercenary group has recruited more than 1,000 prisoners in 17 different penal colonies across Russia, according to the independent portal Verstka, which was also closely involved in the alleged recruitment of Wagner.

Long accused by Western officials and investigative journalists of funding Wagner, Prigozhin denies having any ties to the paramilitary forces, a dark group that has left a long mark on allegations of war crimes in Ukraine, Syria and the CAR.

In a statement to Verstka about Wagner’s alleged recruiting for the war in Ukraine, the press service of Prigożyna Concord Management reportedly sent back a comment from a businessman in which he avoided responding directly if he was recruiting prisoners, but admitted that he “was in [penal] colonies in the 1980s “

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