‘Putin’s Chef’ Yevgeny Prigozhin Is Touring Prisons for Wagner Recruits to Fight in Ukraine, Reports Say
A sanctioned Russian businessman and close Putin ally with ties to the notorious Wagner group has reportedly been visiting Russian prisons in person and recruiting prisoners to join the fight in Ukraine.
That’s according to a new report from independent media on Saturday media area, which interviewed two prisoners held in different facilities in different parts of Russia. There have been numerous reports in recent weeks of Wagner’s alleged recruitment among prisoners, as Russia’s private army ostensibly tries to support a Russian army exhausted by heavy losses in nearly six months of war.
But this appears to be the first time that Yevgeny Prigozhin, popularly known as “Putin’s cook”, is said to have made an appeal to prisoners in person.
“They’re mainly interested in murderers and robbers, and they treat drug users with care, and the same goes for rapists. It’s better not to be ordinary killers, but straight-up killers – you’ll like us,” he said Overall, he gave the impression of a lunatic,” an unnamed prisoner told Mediazona.
The inmate went on to point out that there appeared to be no coercion to join, although “many” did sign up, saying an estimated at least 200 prisoners eagerly accepted the offer.
Prisoners were reportedly given free pardons and salaries in exchange for their services, and men identified as Prigozhin promised they had only a 15 percent chance of dying, a figure reportedly based on an “experimental” deployment of prisoners in early July.
Prigozhin allegedly visited a penal colony in Rybinsk in the Yaroslavl region on August 1, where prisoners were told that a “third world war” was underway and that they had a chance to fight for their homeland. A prisoner told Mediazona’s account.
“My men entered the African country, and after two days they left nothing, and now they are still in Ukraine to destroy the enemy. You decide in [private military company] It’s a deal with the devil. If you leave here with me, you will either return to a free man or you will die. You will be asked to kill the enemy and follow the leader’s orders. Those who retreat will be shot on the spot,” Prigozin was quoted as saying by one prisoner.
An inmate at the Pravsk prison in the Tula region told the media that the prisoner was interviewed by Prigozhin on July 25, in which he allegedly said: “I have special authorization from the president, I don’t care, I need to do whatever it takes. Win this damn war.”
During the visit, Prigozin was said to be accompanied by other representatives of Wagner, and the prisoners were reportedly barred from using the telephone. Wagner’s representatives said they would visit again in two or three months if they “run out” of prisoners in the first wave of recruitment, according to a friend of a prisoner in Pravsk.
Several human rights groups have also reported on Wagner’s alleged recruitment, including Rus Sidyashaya, which says prisoners and their families told Wagner’s proposal, and Gulagu.net, a human rights group that monitors the conditions of prisoners in Russia’s penal colonies.
Vladimir Oshekin, founder of human rights group Gulagu.net, recently wrote on Facebook that inmates in a high-security prison spoke of Putin cron Prigozhin arriving by helicopter in late July and persuading about 150 prisoners to join war.
According to Mediazona, the man identified by the prisoners as Prigozhin reportedly tried to establish contact with them, pointing out that he had served prison himself.
So far, according to independent Vestkawhich also closely reported the so-called Wagner recruitment campaign, a mercenary group that recruited more than 1,000 prisoners in 17 different penal colonies across Russia.
Long accused of funding Wagner by Western officials and investigative journalists, Prigozin has denied any ties to the paramilitary, a shady group with longstanding war crimes charges in Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic.
The news service of Prigozhin’s company, Concord Management, reportedly responded to the businessman’s comments in a statement to Verstka about Wagner’s alleged recruiting for the Ukrainian war, in which he said he would be charged if he was recruiting prisoners. Avoids a direct answer, but admits he’s been [penal] Colony in the 80’s. “