NewsRussia recruits prison inmates for the frontline. 120,000 reportedly in service

Russia recruits prison inmates for the frontline. 120,000 reportedly in service

Even 120 thousand prisoners from Russia ended up on the Ukrainian front.
Even 120 thousand prisoners from Russia ended up on the Ukrainian front.
Images source: © Getty Images | SOPA Images
2:26 PM EST, December 8, 2023

The Russian army, an unusual mix of soldiers, volunteers, and criminals, has reportedly allowed inmates to leave prison in return for serving in the military. Estimates from independent media in Moscow indicate that the authorities have released around 100,000 to 120,000 inmates, a sizeable number of whom die each day. To the army, these inmates represent numbers and potential sacrificial pawns.

An alarming report regarding prisoners serving in the Russian army was published by the independent outlet The website, run by independent Kremlin journalist Vladimir Osechkin, states that since the onset of the war, over 100,000 convicts have been released from Russian prisons and sent to the frontline as an opportunity to expiate their crimes.

The convicts, among whom are murderers, rapists, thieves, fraudsters, and tragically, even cannibals, are afforded no alternative options. Apparently, these individuals represent the least desirable elements that Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin associates could stand to lose. As indicated in the report, hundreds of these soldier-prisoners meet their end daily.

In the army's hierarchy, these convicts occupy the lowest rung, viewed solely as expendable combatants.

Supplementary information is provided by Olga Romanova, the executive director of Justice Russia, who, from her data, estimates that up to 120,000 prisoners have been dispatched to the Ukrainian frontline. The initial recruiting in institutions and penal colonies commenced in mid-2022, an "innovative" idea credited to Eugeniusz Prigozhin.

Prioritizing physically fit prisoners, particularly those with former military experience, Prigozhin delegated many to the Wagner Group. Following his lead, the Russian Ministry of National Defense started assembling units composed of convicts. Prominently, the "Storm-Z" unit has been active in Ukraine for over a year.

Vladimir Osechkin posits that more than a thousand of these convicts die in the front line every week.

The military takes a utilitarian approach towards these convicts, showing little concern for their fate. Generally lacking proper equipment and training, these units are directed to attack and eliminate as many Ukrainian soldiers as possible. This approach is a strategic attempt by the Russians to deplete and disempower Ukraine's forces and destroy as much of their equipment as possible.

Only then do they focus their attention on confronting properly equipped and prepared professional military units. It's understood that they often do this over the bodies of hundreds of executed prisoners.

Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of, has been reporting military irregularities since the inception of the war. He has received information about prisoner recruitment from sources within the Russian Federal Prison Service. Only a fraction of these individuals return to their homeland, where they are again free to potentially commit further crimes.

British intelligence estimates suggest out of the current 350,000 Russian casualties, around 20,000 might be convicts. Additionally, approximately 40,000 have been injured, and some have ended up as prisoners in Ukraine.

Related content