Monday, January 15, 2024

73 Percent of Russian POWs Just Returned were Convicted Criminals before Being Sent to Fight in Ukraine, Activist Group Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 12 – According to Our Way Out, an activist project which has been involved in seeking the return of Russian POWS, 180 of the 248 men returned from Ukraine on January 3 had been convicted and were serving time in Russian prison and camps before joining the military.

            The figures Our Way Out provided ( were then checked by the Important Stories journalists who used a sample to ensure that those reported as having been convicted were in fact convicted ( The checking confirmed that and that many had committed the most serious crimes and often for more than one.

            There are several possibilities to explain this pattern. On the one hand, Ukrainian officials may want to get rid of such people as soon as possible and even to embarrass Russia in the process. But on the other, it may well be that such convicts become soldiers either are used in ways that make their capture more likely or behave in ways that have the same effect.

            But however that may be, this new data set highlights just how large a component convicted criminals are playing in the Russian invasion force, something that may undercut Moscow’s efforts to present them as heroes and confirm Ukrainian views that Russian soldiers are engaged in criminal actions at least in part because they were criminals to begin with. 


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