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Former Convict’s Return From War Strikes Fear in Russian Village as New Murder Unfolds

by Ryan Lee
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convict recruitment

Ivan Rossomakhin, a former convict who recently returned from the war in Ukraine, has become a source of terror for his neighbors in a village east of Moscow. Three months ago, Rossomakhin was released from prison after serving time for murder. However, his freedom came with a condition—he volunteered to fight alongside the Wagner private military contractor. Now back in Novy Burets, Rossomakhin roams the streets under the influence, wielding a pitchfork and issuing threats to kill residents, according to witnesses.

Despite assurances from the police that they would monitor the 28-year-old ex-inmate closely, he was arrested in a nearby town on charges of stabbing an elderly woman who used to rent him a room. Reportedly, Rossomakhin confessed to the crime less than two weeks after his return.

This incident involving Rossomakhin is not an isolated case. Recent reports by Russian media and interviews with victims’ relatives reveal at least seven similar instances in which convicts recruited by Wagner were implicated in violent crimes. These cases span across various regions from Kaliningrad to Siberia.

Russia has taken extraordinary measures to replenish its troops in Ukraine, including the deployment of Wagner mercenaries. This decision has had wide-ranging consequences, as demonstrated by the recent short-lived rebellion led by the group’s leader, who ordered his private army to march on Moscow. Furthermore, the use of convicts in battle has become a concerning trend.

In March, the British Defense Ministry warned of the potential fallout, highlighting the challenge Russia may face in reintegrating often violent offenders with recent traumatic combat experience into its society after their service ends.

Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed to have recruited 50,000 convicts for Ukraine, an estimate corroborated by Olga Romanova, the director of the prisoner rights group Russia Behind Bars. Western military officials also assert that the majority of Wagner’s force in Ukraine consisted of convicts.

While Prigozhin recently stated that around 32,000 convicts have returned from Ukraine, Romanova estimated the number to be approximately 15,000 as of early June. These prisoners were promised freedom after their service, and President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that he has been signing undisclosed pardon decrees for convicts who fought in Ukraine.

Although Putin asserts that recidivism rates among these freed convicts are significantly lower than the national average, human rights advocates caution against potential increased criminal activities as more convicts return from war. The perception that one can commit terrible acts, join the war, and emerge as a hero creates a dangerous disconnect between crime and consequences, not only for convicts but also for the general public.

Rossomakhin, upon his return from Ukraine, was not regarded as a valorous figure but rather as an “extremely restless, problematic person,” according to police statements made during a meeting with concerned residents in Novy Burets. Tragically, 85-year-old Yulia Buyskikh fell victim to his violence. Buyskikh’s granddaughter, Anna Pekareva, wrote on social media that Rossomakhin killed her grandmother after gaining entry into their home. Pekareva emphasized the need for every family in Russia to be wary of such visitors.

Similar incidents include a robbery where a man held a saleswoman at knifepoint, a car theft involving three former convicts who assaulted the owner, the sexual assault of two schoolgirls, and two additional killings apart from the one in Novy Burets.

In Kaliningrad, a man was arrested for the sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl after luring her away from her mother. The suspect, who had a history of prison time and boasted about his involvement with Wagner in Ukraine, instilled fear in the girl’s relative, who questioned how many more returning convicts pose a threat.

Wagner typically offered convicts six-month contracts for their service, allowing them to return home, unlike regular soldiers who are bound by longer contracts until Putin’s mobilization decree ends. However, it remains uncertain whether these terms will be honored following Prigozhin’s failed rebellion.

Prigozhin, himself a former convict, acknowledged that some repeat offenders were part of Wagner’s ranks, including Rossomakhin in Novy Burets and another individual arrested in Novosibirsk for sexually assaulting two girls.

According to a criminology expert who requested anonymity, this year’s incidents align with patterns of recidivist behavior. Even if these convicts had not joined Wagner, there is a possibility that they would have committed crimes upon release. However, the expert does not anticipate a sudden surge in crime rates as a significant number of ex-convicts can refrain from breaking the law for some time, especially if they were well-compensated by Wagner. The expert predicts that crime rates may rise after the war, but not solely due to the involvement of convicts, as such post-conflict spikes are customary.

During World War II, the Soviet Union deployed 1.2 million convicts to fight, and a significant number of them ended up behind bars again after committing new crimes for several years afterward.

Romanova from Russia Behind Bars highlights several troubling episodes involving convicts returning to civilian life after serving in Ukraine. Law enforcement and justice officials who dedicated resources to prosecute these criminals can feel disheartened when they see them walking free without serving their sentences.

In some instances, convicts caught committing crimes upon their return attempt to shift blame onto the police, accusing them of discrediting those who fought in Ukraine—an offense punishable under Russian law. This dynamic creates a deterrent effect on law enforcement, as prosecutors do not want to risk imprisonment themselves.

Yana Gelmel, a lawyer and rights advocate who works with convicts, describes a bleak existence in Russia’s prisons, characterized by pervasive violence, extreme isolation, submission to guards, and a rigid inmate hierarchy. For prisoners who have experienced these conditions, Gelmel questions the impact on their mental state upon return.

Despite the failed mutiny by Wagner, reports indicate that prison recruiting for duty in Ukraine continues, albeit not by Wagner itself. Instead, the Defense Ministry seeks volunteers, offering them contracts. According to Romanova, the ministry has already recruited nearly 15,000 convicts as of June, although official confirmation is pending.

Unlike Wagner, the Defense Ministry will soon have legal grounds to enlist convicts into contractual service, following the swift approval of relevant laws by parliament and their subsequent signing by Putin. The ministry’s contracts extend to 18 months, but many recruits have not received any documents to sign, leaving them in precarious situations.

Romanova notes that the enthusiasm among inmates to serve has not diminished, even after witnessing thousands of casualties on the battlefield. She somberly remarks that “Russian roulette is our favorite game”—a grim portrayal of a national reality.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war at https://bigbignews.net/russia-ukraine-war

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Russian village

Q: Why were the neighbors in the Russian village afraid of Ivan Rossomakhin?

A: The neighbors in the Russian village were afraid of Ivan Rossomakhin because he had recently returned from the war in Ukraine and had a history of violent behavior, including a previous murder conviction.

Q: How many convicts were recruited by Wagner for the war in Ukraine?

A: Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, claimed to have recruited 50,000 convicts for the war in Ukraine. This estimate was also supported by Olga Romanova, the director of the prisoner rights group Russia Behind Bars.

Q: Did the convicts recruited by Wagner receive freedom after their service?

A: Yes, the convicts recruited by Wagner were promised freedom after their service in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he was signing undisclosed pardon decrees for convicts fighting in Ukraine.

Q: Are there concerns about increased criminal activities as more convicts return from the war?

A: Yes, there are concerns about increased criminal activities as more convicts return from the war. While Putin stated that recidivism rates among these convicts are lower than the national average, human rights advocates caution against the potential for an uptick in crimes as the convicts reintegrate into society.

Q: How is the Defense Ministry recruiting convicts for service in Ukraine?

A: The Defense Ministry is now seeking volunteers among convicts for service in Ukraine. They are offering contracts, which, unlike Wagner’s contracts, extend to 18 months. However, many recruits have not yet received the necessary documents to sign, creating a precarious situation for them.

Q: Is there historical precedent for using convicts in wars?

A: Yes, there is historical precedent for using convicts in wars. During World War II, the Soviet Union deployed 1.2 million convicts to fight. A significant number of them ended up behind bars again after committing new crimes in the post-war period.

More about Russian village

  • AP Coverage of the Ukraine War: Provides comprehensive coverage of the Ukraine war and related developments.
  • Wagner Group: Analysis of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, and its activities.
  • Russia Behind Bars: Official website of Russia Behind Bars, a prisoner rights group mentioned in the text.

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