More than 5,000 ex-criminals have been pardoned after completing their contracts to fight in the Wagner Army’s Russian mercenary group in the war against Ukraine. This is according to the founder of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The Wagner group, originally staffed by Russian military veterans, took on a much more prominent role in the Ukraine war after the Russian military suffered a series of humiliating defeats last year.
Prigozhin recruited thousands of men from prisons, offering them a chance at freedom in exchange for service in some of the most dangerous battles in Ukraine.
“Currently, more than 5,000 people have been pardoned after completing their contracts with Wagner,” Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said in an audio clip posted on Telegram.
He noted that only 0.31% of those pardoned after serving Wagner went on to commit crimes, a figure he said was 10-20 times lower than standard rates.
Prigozhin, who served nine years in a Soviet-era prison for robbery and other crimes before going into business during the 1990s, pleaded guilty to meddling in US elections and acknowledged for the first time his role in setting up Wagner. He is considered the most powerful of the group of Putin allies who now control private armies Recruiting senior military officers, former spies and prisoners.