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Wagner Group claims Russia has so far pardoned 5,000 criminals after fighting in Ukraine, and that less than 1% of them have reoffended

Business Insider India logo Business Insider India 25-03-2023 Kenneth Niemeyer
  • Founder of Wagner Group said Russia pardoned thousands of criminals after fighting in Ukraine.
  • "At the present time, more than 5,000 people have been released on pardon after completing their contracts with Wagner," Yevgeny Prigozhin said, according to Reuters.

In an audio file posted to Telegram on Saturday, the Russian mercenary leader and head of the controversial Wagner Group said Russia had pardoned 5,000 prisoners in exchange for fighting in Ukraine.

Yevgeny Prigozhin — the founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary force — said the country followed through on its promise after the convicts-turned-soldiers completed their contract to fight in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Wagner attracted controversy last year when Russia first began offering prisoners their freedom in exchange for fighting against Ukraine. One former inmate said he barely received training before being sent to the front lines and didn't expect to survive his first mission.

The average life expectancy of a front line soldier in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is about four hours, an American soldier fighting in the conflict estimated. Some Ukrainian troops, shocked by the willingness of Wagner soldiers to rush into battle toward almost certain death, have speculated that the Wagner Group provides its soldiers with drugs, though there is no concrete evidence of that.

Roughly 30,000 Wagner Group troops have been killed killed or injured since February 2022, the start of Russia's invasion, a White House spokesperson said a press conference last month.

Late last week, Prigozhin pushed back against reports that the Wagner Group was preparing to reduce its presence in Ukraine. The Wagner Group will stay in Ukraine "as long as our country needs us," he said, according to Bloomberg.

The Wagner Group has apparently begun recruiting "impressionable" youths to bolster its ranks, opening six recruitment centers at schools and sports clubs, according to the Intestate for the Study of War.

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