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Wagner Group: Head of Russian mercenary group filmed recruiting in prison

By Amanda Caroline  •  September 15, 2022  •  16

The founder of Russia's shadowy Wagner mercenary group has appeared in leaked footage attempting to recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

In filmed footage, verified by the BBC, Yevgeniy Prigozhin can be seen addressing a large group of detainees.

Mr Prigozhin told prisoners their sentences would be commuted in exchange for service with his group.

The video would confirm long-running speculation that Russia hopes to boost its forces by recruiting convicts.

While Russian law does not allow commutation of prison sentences in exchange for mercenary service, Mr Prigozhin insisted that "nobody goes back behind bars" if they serve with his group.

He also informed prisoners of Wagner's rules banning alcohol, drugs and "sexual contacts with local women, flora, fauna, men - anything".

Speaking in what appeared to be the penal colony's exercise yard, the mercenary chief also alluded to the difficulties Russia has faced in the protracted conflict, telling prisoners that "this is a hard war, not even close to the likes of Chechnya and the others".

It is unclear who filmed the video, when it occurred or how it was released.

But the BBC has geolocated the footage to a penal colony in Russia's central Mariy El Republic. Analysts did this by conducting a reverse image search on a church visible in the background of the video, which matched to penal colony number six.