"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

Russia Utilizes Criminals for Recruits

Courtesy of Dmitry Terekhov (Flickr CC0)

The Russian Federation offered the inhabitants of a prison colony freedom if they join the fight against Ukraine. Apparently, the Red Army is not above recruiting criminals to their cause. An anonymous woman’s boyfriend in the prison says that in the last few days, about a dozen people have left.

Even the boyfriend reportedly said that with some time still left on his sentence he “couldn’t not think about it.” Instead of fully mobilizing, the Russian army chose to discreetly recruit criminals. This is likely because Russian soldiers are deserting the battlefield left and right. Russia continues to lose battle after battle. This is de-moralizing to soldiers, similar to how American soldiers felt in Vietnam. Russia also started increasing the salary of those who join the fight. This further strengthens the ties between modern Russia and the USSR.

Soviet Strategies Employed

Courtesy of Alan Wilson (Flickr CC0)

Recruiting prisoners to fight is not a new strategy, especially for Russia. The Soviets used prisoner battalions in World War 2. In the war, almost 1 million soldiers were freed from gulags and many became heroes. Even those who did not become soldiers built railroads and airstrips as well as other things like fuel. This included prisoners gaining freedom by becoming soldiers.

This is almost identical to what is happening now. The convicts fought harder than any other soldier.  A Soviet artillery officer said, “Those hardcore criminals fought as no one did. Why? Because I treated them as humans… They were the first to drag artillery guns under fire and the first to construct an observation tower. They fought like beasts! I talked to them and awarded them. And there were results..” Modern-Day Russia is now attempting the exact same thing.

Prisons Across Russia Given Offer

Prisons all over Russia received this deal. Join the fight and earn freedom. Prisoners who leave as recruits are sent on high-risk missions. One prisoner commented, “They will accept murderers, but not rapists, pedophiles, extremists, or terrorists. Amnesty or a pardon in six months is on offer. Somebody talks about 100,000 rubles a month, another 200,000. Everything is different.” Convict soldiers are being sent out as decoys to draw out Ukrainian forces.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Follows in Putin’s Footsteps

Ukraine is also no stranger to recruiting prisoners to fight. The Ukrainian President has openly asked for any military veterans that are in jail to help fight against Russia. We don’t know what Ukraine is doing currently with their convict soldiers. Ukrainian convicts could very well be subject to the same strategy. This is what Russia previously asked for. Convicts with military or law enforcement experience.

The War

Several Russian convicts only became recruits so that they could see their families again. Eight out of the 11 convicts mentioned by the anonymous woman’s boyfriend died in Ukraine. Those who remain do not expect to come back.

This leaves families to check hospitals for the wounded. Both sides are rapidly losing soldiers and morale to continue the war. Russia is especially struggling. Soldiers who have been in the military all their lives are asking to leave. Even those who had just joined the army are going back on their contracts. The war has now gone on for 6 months. Even if Russia loses, in war, no one ever truly wins.

Written by Malachi Brown
Edited by Sheena Robertson

AP News: Russia struggles to replenish its troops in Ukraine

Russia Beyond: How criminals became Soviet heroes during WWII; Boris Egorov

CNN News: Russia dangles freedom to prisoners if they fight in Ukraine. Many are taking the deadly gamble.; Nick Paton Walsh, Daria Markina, Sebastian Shukla, Oleksandra Ochman and Darya Tarasova

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Dmitry Terekhov‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Alan Wilson‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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