Russia struggles to replenish the ranks of its decimated army

Russia struggles to replenish the ranks of its decimated army
An army propaganda sign reading

Russian head of state Vladimir Putin, who has been trying for six months to reorganize the economy and society around the war effort in Ukraine, urges his fellow citizens to take up arms. On September 5, during a trip to Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East, he ordered the government to guarantee the volunteers engaged in the special military operation their previous employment. During this trip 7,000 kilometers from the front, the Head of State also declared that these volunteers “fight better than professional soldiers”.

To glorify the sacrifice of Russian fighters who fell in the conflict he triggered, Vladimir Putin distributes medals to some of them. These “examples” sometimes have tortuous fates. On August 16, he awarded that of “courage” to a certain Ivan Neparatov, a repeat murderer sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. The founder of the human rights NGO Gulagu.net, Vladimir Ossetchkine, who discovered this information, points out that the last murder committed by Neparatov dates back to 2010. The assassin had then larded his victim with 88 blows of knife. Aged 34 at the time of his death on the Donbass front, Ivan Neparatov had only served twelve years in prison before finding himself on the battlefield.

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The presence of ex-convicts on the ground is no accident. Vladimir Ossetchkine has collected numerous testimonies showing that a recruitment campaign has been organized for several months in Russian prisons to replenish the ranks of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Mercenary groups

While the Defense Minister Sergei Shoiguproclaimed on September 2 that “the current system of preparation of the army cadres makes it possible to train a large army of highly qualified professionals”, the private military company nicknamed Wagner visits one by one the places of detention of the country to unearth “executives”, reports Russian news site The Insider.

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Vladimir Ossetchkine reports that the recruitment campaign is currently in full swing in the Rostov region, which borders Ukraine. This news is confirmed by a local news site, 161.ru, which collected testimonies from detainees who attended enlistment meetings and obtained – anonymous – confirmation from representatives of the security structures. The Russian prison service, on the other hand, denies any recruitment in prisons.

A prisoner recounts that on August 30 at 6 o’clock in the morning, all the inmates of prison No. 2 in Rostov were ordered to line up to listen to a recruitment offer. They were promised salaries between 100,000 rubles and 300,000 rubles per month (from 1,600 euros to 5,000 euros). “The service lasts six months, then you are released with a clean record. If you are killed, your family receives 5 million rubles”, says a prisoner to the site 161.ru. By cross-checking the testimonies, the site estimates the number of inmates who accepted the proposal at around 400 in prison no. 2 and 600 in prison no. 15.

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