A private military company is recruiting prisoners to send them to the front lines in an effort to advance Russian President Vladimir Putin A faltering attack according to Western military analysts and a new video that appears to show the group’s recruitment pitch.
Footage surfaced this week of what appears to be Yevgeny Prigozhineminent financier of the Russian oligarch and wagner mercenary group, He has previously denied ties to the group whose mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine and stationed by the Kremlin in places such as Syria And SudanAnalysts say.
Videos posted on Russian social media sites show a man with the voice and likeness of Prigozhin addressing a large group of prisoners, all dressed in navy-colored uniforms and gathered in a concrete yard Huh. He tells them that if they serve six months in Ukraine their sentence will be reduced – but anyone who changes their mind will be shot as a fugitive.
According to a translation of this article, the man in the video tells the prisoners, “You will not be separated from us.” “I’m kicking you out alive. But don’t always bring you back alive.”
NBC News’ social newsgathering team transferred the video to a prison in the city of Yoshkar-Ola, capital of Russia’s central Mari El Republic, about 500 miles east of Moscow. It is unclear when the footage was filmed. It first surfaced on Russian Telegram channels and social media accounts this week, and was shared by opposition activists.
Ukraine’s armed forces have regained control of a vast swathOver the past few weeks, as they advanced with the help of precision western supplied artillery, what experts said were thin and disorganized Russian lines.
The counter-attack led to the discovery of an alleged mass burial site near the important city izumeOne of many areas from which the Russian withdrawal has left the Kremlin struggling to respond.
British Defense Ministry said on friday That Wagner had been offering cash incentives for prisoners signing up to fight or cut their sentences since at least July. The ministry also said that Russian military academies are shortening training courses so that cadets can be deployed as quickly as possible. “The impact of Russia’s manpower challenge has become increasingly severe,” it said.
Washington-based military think tank Institute for the Study of War said this week’s briefing That video showed “Pregozin being installed as the face of Russian ‘special military operations’ in Ukraine.”
A Russian military blogger “noted that Prigozin is introducing a ‘Stalinist’ method that allows the Kremlin to avoid a general mobilization order that could ignite social tensions in Russian society,” the institute called the war. The pair, referring to the online community of pro-activists, have urged the Kremlin to change its approach in the wake of Ukrainian progress.
“Putin did not want to go so far as to go for general mobilization, which would be highly unpopular and could have consequences for the stability of the regime,” said John Lough, an aide and Russia expert at Chatham House, a think tank in London. , He said the prisoner’s recruitment “suggests a level of frustration” on the part of the Kremlin.
According to Luff, the Russian troops being sent to the front lines are very badly equipped, poorly prepared and lack the motivation to fight.
“There are increasing signs that there is a serious morale problem … which is exceptionally dangerous for the Russians. Parts of the forces there have clearly opted to retreat at a faster pace,” Lough said. Told.
Prigozhin’s company provides catering to the Kremlin and other Russian state agencies, earning him the nickname of “Putin’s Chef”. Now a wealthy oligarch, Putin’s close aide had previously served nine years in prison for robbery in his 20s.
it was banned from entering the United States Under Treasury Department sanctions for his alleged involvement in efforts to influence the 2018 election.
Concord Group, Prigozhin’s company, which appeared to confirm the only obvious way to contact him for comment, was in a softly witty reply to a reporter from a Russian tabloid on the Russian social media platform VKontakte in the video .
“In fact, we can confirm that the man in the video bears a monstrous resemblance to Yevgeny Viktorovich,” she said, using the patronymic version of Prigozhin’s name.
Addressing criticism of the plan to hire prisoners as soldiers, the company posted a response on its VKontakte page saying that Prigozin himself, using an acronym for private military companies, read: ” Either the PMC and the prisoners, or your children – decide for yourself. ”
In the video, the man who appears to be Prigozhin warned prisoners on the front line about the dangers of indulging in alcohol and drugs, and what he called “marauding”.
“This includes sexual contact with local women, men, flora, fauna, anyone,” he said.
The Wagner group would be careful, he continued, regarding the recruitment of sex offenders, before adding: “But we understand that mistakes can happen.”
The man said in the video that he was looking for “Hurricane” to join the attack mission. He also revealed that he had previously used 40 prisoners from the Russian city of St Petersburg in an attack on a power station in Ukraine’s Donetsk region in June.
Russia has consistently denied the involvement of the Wagner group in its official military operations. NBC News has contacted the Kremlin for comment.
NBC News asked the Concord Group if it was Prigozhin in the video and for an explanation of his relationship with Wagner. “Gentlemen, you are becoming more and more boring,” the company’s VKontakte page publicly respondedReferring to past media reactions and without answering questions.