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Rights Group Says Hundreds Of Prisoners In Russia's North Caucasus Recruited For War In Ukraine

By Caucasus.Realities, Siberia.Realities July 12, 2022

A human rights group that monitors the treatment of inmates at Russian penitentiaries says hundreds of men at a prison in the North Caucasus region of Adygea have agreed to be sent to fight in Russia's war against Ukraine as a result of aggressive recruiting.

The founder of the organization Gulagu.net, Vladimir Osechkin, told RFE/RL on July 11 that two sources told him that some 300 inmates at Correctional Colony No. 1 in the town of Tlyustenkhabl had been recruited by the private military company Vagner, which has ties to the Kremlin and is involved in the war in Ukraine.

A day earlier, Gulagu.net issued a video it said was taken in the penitentiary in Adygea, where former law enforcement officers are incarcerated, in which an apparent inmate talks about his friends being recruited to go "either to rob or to fight."

Osechkin, who left Russia several years ago and is based in France, said that there had been "a flow" of complaints in the last two weeks from relatives of inmates and recently released former inmates at penitentiaries in some 20 regions of Russia who reported recruitment campaigns behind bars.

"About two and a half months ago, we began receiving information indicating that the FSB (Federal Security Service) started visiting penitentiaries for former law enforcement officers, to recruit inmates. They were interested in inmates who had experience taking part in military operations, promising early release in exchange of readiness to go to the war," Osechkin said. "Almost nobody among those who really have had such an experience wished to go to [fight in] the war."

Osechkin's group has said that such recruitment campaigns have been reported at prisons for former law enforcement officers in the town of Shakhty, in the Rostov region, which borders Ukraine; in the southern city of Krasnodar; and in St. Petersburg.

Facing heavy casualties in a war whose end may be months or years away, Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and the military have taken numerous steps to bolster recruitment without, at least for now, ordering a general mobilization that could be politically risky.

Ukrainian authorities have claimed that Russia has lost more than 37,400 soldiers and officers since it launched the large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, while Western intelligence agencies have said the number probably exceeds 20,000. The Russian Defense Ministry last released casualty figures in late March, saying that 1,351 of its personnel had died.

Another human rights group, Free Buryatia, said earlier that some 150 soldiers in Russia's Republic of Buryatia quit the armed forces after they took part in the war in Ukraine, despite pressure imposed on them.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-penitentiaries- recruitment-ukraine-war/31940102.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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