Journalists note that now the only way for prisoners to leave the service is to receive a state award, lose their legal capacity, reach the age limit, or survive until the end of the war.
For more than a year now, the Russian Federation has been recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine, offering them pardon and freedom after 6 months of service. However, this agreement has now ceased to apply. The BBC writes about this.
According to the publication, now ex-convict Russians no longer receive pardons, face harsh conditions and, instead of returning home earlier, they must fight until the end of the war.
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“If you sign up now, be prepared to die. Previously, you could serve for six months. But now you have to survive until the end of the war,” a man named Sergei, a fighter from the Storm V unit, said in a chat for former Russian prisoners fighting in Ukraine .
After the death of the head of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner PMC became a thing of the past, and now the conditions for prisoners have become more harsh.
One woman from the Trans-Baikal region in the Russian Far East, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC that her husband was recruited into one of the Storm V units in the fall of 2023.
“This February would have been 15 years since his sentencing. He has four more left. Conditions in prison were normal. He could continue to serve his sentence, but this was the only way to quickly bring him home,” she said.
According to her, his contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense was concluded for a year, and not for six months, like previous prisoners. And when the man’s time is up, he will not receive a pardon and will not be able to go home immediately, since the contract will be “automatically extended.”
Social media posts by other Russians with relatives serving in Storm V units indicate they, too, will have to remain on the front lines until the end of what Moscow calls its “special military operation.”
Chances of survival are approximately 25%
Prisoners are warned about this when they sign up, and this is in line with Vladimir Putin's September 2022 decree, which essentially means that once the contract expires, it effectively cannot be terminated and is renewed.
Now the only way for prisoners to receive full release is to receive a government award, become incapacitated, reach the age limit, or survive until the end of the war.
Instead of pardons, former prisoners now receive parole after completing their military service. This means that if they are found guilty of a new crime, their sentence will also reflect their previous convictions.
“Your chances of survival are approximately 25%. I was a stormtrooper for five months. Of our platoon, which numbers about 100 people, only 38 are alive,” said one of the Russians recruited in prison.
Many Storm V troops only train on the range for 10 days before being sent to the front lines. There are several dozen cases where convicts found themselves on the front line only after three to five days of training.
One of the men says he has been in prison several times since 2014 for grievous bodily harm and theft. In October, he signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense and left for the front from a maximum security institution. He said that Storm V fighters are often sent on “senseless assaults”, of which only a few people return. If they refuse to go, he says, they are thrown into a hole in the ground and given no food.
“Luck won’t be enough. I already know that I won’t make it,” he says about his chance to survive on the front line.
Let us recall that prisoners from Storm Z complained to Putin about the failure to fulfill promises regarding wages and paperwork. The commander of “Storm Z” noted that similar problems are observed not only in his company, but also among other volunteers in different regions of Russia.
In November 2023, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, Colonel General Alexander Syrsky, said that the enemy used Storm Z units to storm Ukrainian positions in all directions.