As Putin’s invasion force is being driven back all over Ukraine, the infamous Wagner Group is touring Russian prison camps offering freedom to hardened criminals in exchange for six months’ service in the army.
But, he warned them, they mustn't have sex with any men, women or animals they meet in Ukraine.
“In six months you will go home, having been pardoned,” he told inmates at the prison in central Russia ’s Mari El region. “There is no chance of returning to prison.”
READ MORE: Inside The Wagner Group – Putin's secret army waging bloody war on NATO's borders
However Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin warned that any new recruits who refuse to fight after arriving in Ukraine would be classified as deserters, and will be shot.
In a strong hint that Russian fighters were expected to blow themselves up rather than allow themselves to be captured, he told them that each man would be issued with two hand grenades.
“No one is retreating. No one backs down. No one is being taken prisoner,” he said, according to a subtitled video that was posted online by supporters of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The Wagner Group, a privately-owned company that has been used by Putin for deniable operations around the world, has a dark reputation for war crimes.
But Prigozhin told the potential recruits that there would be strict rules while they were at the front.
He said that the use of any alcohol or recreational drugs was banned, and that Wagner Group mercenaries were forbidden to “have sexual contact with local women, flora, fauna, men, whoever.”
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Prigozhin, 61, stressed that no matter what their crime, the convicts could earn their freedom by signing a six-month contract with the Wagner Group: “Is there anyone else who can free those of you with ten-year prison terms?”
He said: “There are two — Allah and God — they can get you out in a wooden box. But I can get you out alive."
He did admit that conditions in Ukraine were tough:
“It isn’t like any Chechen wars or anything,” he told the potential recruits. “We’ve been using two and half times more ammunition than they used at Stalingrad.”
He said that one group of prisoners had already won a great victory against the Ukrainians: “Forty of them went into the enemy’s trenches and cut them up with knives,” he said.
He said that in exchange, the Wagner Group force had lost just three dead and seven injured.
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He added the one of the Russian who died “had been serving 30 years but died a heroic death.”
At the end of his pitch to the prisoners, Prigozhin asked: “Any questions?” telling them “You have five minutes to think things over.”
Under Russian law prisoners cannot be offered amnesty in return for military service.
The Times reports that at least 10,000 prisoners have already been recruited for the “special military operation”.
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