After signing and fulfilling the contracts with the PMC, convicts are promised full amnesty after 6 months of service. The report further claims that the crime committed by convicts is irrelevant, even if it is murder or other serious crimes.
Representatives from the Kremlin-linked Wagner private military contractor and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reportedly offered convicts deployment or work on restoring and demining occupied Ukrainian territories, according to a report by the Gulagu prisoner's rights group.
Up to 10,000 volunteers are planned to be recruited within the next two months, according to the report. After that, the composition of the PMC will be redeployed to the territory of Donbas. One of the main tasks will be to establish control over the roads in the Izyum—Sloviansk—Bakhmut area, according to Ukrainian intelligence.
NGO reports corroborate independent media investigations detailing Wagner’s recruiters offering high wages and salaries to their families in the event of their death.
The gathering of recruits takes place at a military training ground near the village of Molkino in the Krasnodar Territory, which Ukrainian intelligence has claimed is serving as a training base for mercenaries of the "Wagner" PMC.
While there does seem to be a military base near the village of Molkino, it is unclear what exactly is happening there or what purpose it serves.
The layout of the base and adjacent compounds suggest it holds a large number of troops in dozens of barracks buildings, as well as having tanks, APCs, helicopters and other military vehicles as well as training grounds and shooting ranges.
Recruitment campaigns are carried out in prisons and penal colonies in Rostov, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Tver, Ryazan, Smolensk and especially in the Republic of Adygea, where about 300 prisoners have reportedly agreed to join Russian forces in Ukraine, according to The Moscow times and other independent sources.
At one St. Petersburg prison, 200 inmates initially showed interest in the offer, with 40 eventually enlisting, according to iStories.
Similar recruitment attempts have been reported at two shipyards managed by the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation and billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s Metalloinvest mining works, according to The Moscow Times’ Russian service.
At Metalloinvest’s Lebedinsky mining and processing works in the border city of Belgorod, one worker told The Moscow Times that a recruitment drive had been ongoing for several months.
Metalloinvest denied that its mining works had offered miners to sign up for military service. The United Shipbuilding Corporation did not respond to requests for comment.
The unconventional recruitment campaigns appear to be an attempt by the Russian military to replace its forces depleted by four months of the war in Ukraine.
If true, the reports indicate the desperation of Russia to mobilize from unexpected quarters, an indication that more conventional recruitment bids are failing with commanders worried about manpower shortages.