Leaked footage of Russian mercenary boss recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine. Photo/BBC
In the tape, verified by BBC, Yevgeniy Prigozhin is seen speaking to a large group of prisoners. He told the prisoners that their sentences would be commuted in exchange for serving with his group.
The video will confirm long-standing speculation that Russia hopes to increase its power by recruiting convicts.
While Russian law does not allow for reduced prison terms in exchange for being a mercenary, Prigozhin insists that no one goes back behind bars if they serve with his group.
“If you serve six months (at Wagner), you are free,” he said, warning them if they deserted.
“If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we will execute you,” he said.
He also informed the detainees about the Wagner Group’s rules against alcohol, drugs and sexual contact with local women, flora, fauna, men or anything else.
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Speaking at what appears to be a training ground for convicts, the mercenary chief also touched on the difficulties Russia is facing in the protracted conflict in Ukraine. He tells prospective recruits that this is a tough war, not even with the likes of Chechnya and others.
Prigozhin – who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin – has previously denied any links to the Wagner Group, whose forces have been deployed in Ukraine, Syria and several African conflicts.