About 20 armed detainees have fled the frontline in occupied Donetsk in recent days and the Russian military has been forced to launch a manhunt for members of its own squad, the military’s general staff said on Thursday. Ukrainian armed forces. Three of the “fugitives” were killed in the ensuing search, Ukrainian authorities said, noting wryly: “Beat your own, so that the others are afraid, as they say.”
The hunt is said to be still ongoing for the other fugitive inmates. The news comes just two days after a alleged Russian deserter fleeing the battlefield in Ukrainian-occupied Donbass crossed the border with Russia before opening fire and wounding two policemen. Independent media identified the shooter as a prison inmate recruited to fight in the war.
While many experts saw the prison recruitment program for what it was from the start—a practical way to reinforce the fledgling Russian troops using men deemed easily disposable – it seems that many inmates themselves are finally coming to this realization.
The mass public execution of Wagner defector Yevgeny Nuzhin last month certainly didn’t help matters, no matter how Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mastermind behind the prison’s recruitment program, told inmates that they would go down in history as “heroes”.
Today, Russian detainees claim there have been other executions against those seen as having ‘betrayed’ the mercenary group, and aspiring recruits are seeing videos of them.
An inmate of a penal colony in the Far East told the BBC Russian Service that Wagner recruiters showed execution videos to inmates in the facility’s recreation room.
In a video released for a group of inmates who expressed an interest in joining Wagner, he said, a man told the camera: “‘Me, so-and-so, I’m a traitor and a bitch, I ‘left mine in the front line’, then they shot him in the back of the neck.
Another inmate from another colony told the BBC he was also shown another video in which a person was suspended from an iron beam.
Sources close to Wagner reportedly told the BBC that there had been at least three such executions, with one calling them “workout videos”.
Olga Romanova, head of human rights group Russia Behind Bars, said detainees had reported a few dozen extrajudicial executions of prisoners thrown into the war.
“I know they are going to kill me.”
Russian detainees captured by Ukraine have also reportedly started pleading not to be handed over to Russia in any prisoner exchange, fearing they will be executed like Nuzhin was.
A detainee who pledged to fight for Wagner in Ukraine and was later captured by the Ukrainian side was seen in a video pleading not to be fired over the weekend.
Identified by independent Russian media Verstka as Alexander Bolchev, he told a Ukrainian journalist: “I don’t want a swap because they will kill me immediately. I know they are going to kill me.
One of his relatives said the same to the BBC, saying: “It’s good that he is alive, but they will deliver him and he will be killed, he will definitely be killed.”
Experts also say prison recruitment could prove to be a “catastrophe” for ordinary Russians.
“The social situation in the country could seriously suffer after these prisoners return from the war zone and have their sentences reduced or be released for ‘atonement’ of their blood crimes,” said Alexander Kovalenko, a Ukrainian military expert. . iStories. “And they will come back not only with the baggage of crimes committed in Russia and Ukraine, but also with post-traumatic stress disorder, which no psychologist will treat.”
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