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“I convinced him not to enlist, but they took him anyway.” Confessions of mothers and wives of inmates who perished in Russia-Ukraine war

During the war in Ukraine, thousands of inmates in Russian prisons were recruited with promises of clemency and financial support for their families in case of death. They were thrust onto the frontlines without adequate training or proper weaponry, and the majority met their demise in the initial “meatstorm” assaults. Frequently, not only did their families fail to receive any payments, but they were also denied the bodies of the deceased. The Insider interviewed wives and mothers of inmates who lost their lives in the war. They shared insights into why these inmates, when choosing between prison and almost certain death, opted for the latter alternative, how some of the recruits were dispatched to the frontlines without their consent, and how they explained to their children their fathers' death.

  • “We pleaded with him not to kill anyone. We could live with a drug addict in the family, but not with a killer...”

  • “In the camp, you had to pay 3,000 rubles a month, or they would make you suffer. We didn't have that kind of money”

  • “He said, 'If I don't go, I'll end up in the isolation cells, and I'd rather die with dignity'“

  • Olga Romanova: “These people simply don't exist”

“We pleaded with him not to kill anyone. We could live with a drug addict in the family, but not with a killer...”

Ekaterina; her son Ivan was recruited in prison by the Ministry of Defense (Storm-Z unit)

My son ended up in prison because he started using drugs at the age of 15. We changed our place of residence, I sent him to a children's narcology clinic when he was still in school, and later from college. It's a closed facility, with bars on windows and no visits allowed. You hand over your child, and that's it, you don't see them anymore. But the effects of rehabilitation didn't last long.

At some point, I began to notice that he was pacing from window to window, behaving irrationally, agitated, and claiming that the same cars had been parked outside for three days, probably watching him. Later, I started working twenty-four-hour shifts, and he turned our apartment into a den. I would come home and find ten stoned schoolkids on the floor. My son started stealing money, using my card without permission, and even tried to run away to another city several times.

Then he got a girlfriend. I tried to explain to her that he had no future. But she said she also needed an “innocent soul” of her own – she needed someone to rescue. A Russian woman always has to save someone. And we had one “innocent soul” for the two of us. Then she got pregnant, and my son promised to quit drugs.

But one fine morning, a man in plainclothes came for him. I only saw him again at night during the search. A crowd of people came to our place, my son was in handcuffs. There wasn't really a search because my son agreed to a deal. They promised him a shorter sentence for cooperation - they leaned on him hard. And he agreed to show them everything. That fool agreed to everything. Later, he told me he was high at the time. In the early morning, around six o'clock, they took him away in a police van, and after that, we only saw each other at a visitation six months later.

That fool agreed to everything. Later, he told me he was high at the time. In the early morning they took him away in a police van

The first court sentenced him to 14 years as the prosecutor requested. It was terrible. I shouted to him then, “Don't be upset, you'll get out when Navalny is president!” It's hard to imagine now, but back then, you could say such things. After the appeal, the sentence was reduced to 9.5 years. In the fall of 2020, he had to be transported to another prison, and he disappeared until the beginning of February. During that time, his daughter was born - a New Year's gift. That's when he asked someone to contact us, and that's how we found out about him.

Recruitment in prison

My son and I talked about the war while he was in prison. He told me they only had access to four TV channels: Channel One, Russia, Spas, and REN TV. I told him he should listen to what I say, not those channels. At first, he listened, surprised that what they said on TV was completely different from what I was saying. He was planning to apply for parole; he had no violations, only commendations.

And then the Wagner PMC started frequenting penal colonies. They hadn't come to them yet, but the information had already reached them. I immediately told him, “You're not going anywhere. You're in there until 2029.” The first time Wagner came, he didn't volunteer. He said they arrived by helicopter. So everything was just like what we read in the news. The helicopter couldn't land in the front yard, so it landed out back. Priogzhin arrived in an expensive car, stood in the yard. He told all the FSIN officers to either change into civilian clothes or leave. The inmates were in the yard. He gave a speech. The first batch he picked were the toughest. This was, I think, in the summer. Later, there was an Open Day in the colony when relatives could visit. There was a concert, and after it, relatives kept asking if the prison administration would hand their kids over to the Wagnerites. One of the officers told them not to worry because no one else would be recruited due to a shortage of manpower in the colony.

Evgeny Prigozhin recruits inmates into the PMC
Evgeny Prigozhin recruits inmates into the PMC

Sometime in the fall, Wagner arrived again. My son started calling me, and I told him again that he wasn't going anywhere. He replied, “Well, some of the guys called from there, they say it's okay, you can live there, even though it's a bit scary.” I told him I wouldn't allow him to go because I support Ukraine; I even have a Ukrainian flag hanging at home! I told him, “Who are you going against? My father was born in Luhansk, and my grandfather was a Don Cossack. Besides, it's just wrong.” He started talking to me about the money they would pay. I explained to him that you can't kill people for money. My son had no political agenda or a desire to “kill Ukrainians”; he was a very kind guy. I never heard from him if he was willing to kill. But sometimes you're afraid to ask such questions - what if he says “yes,” then how do you live with that?

My son was 21, and he said Wagner didn't recruit anyone under 23 without their parents' consent - he wanted me to give it. I told him, “No way, you're not going.” He called from different phones. I suspect Wagner gave him those phones. I was really worried he would call his father, and his father would give his consent - he believes “all authority is from God, and you have to defend the country, Putin won't advise anything bad.”

The next day, calls started coming in from unknown numbers: strangers started pressuring me to give consent. They told me, “We'll take him anyway, but he'll go on different terms then.” “If he doesn't go now, he'll go anyway, but not with us,” and with hardly any pay. After that, I started calling the duty officer and demanding that they accept my statement that I was against sending my son to the SMO zone, against his illegal participation in the SMO. I sent a letter to the colony's management. Wagner recruited about 200 people, but my son stayed in prison. Life went on as usual. When we talked, he mentioned that some inmates were already calling from the hospital, saying everything was fine. But he had changed his mind and stopped saying he needed to go.

On March 26th, he made his last call, and then I lost contact with him. I started calling the duty officer to find out where my son was. They kept telling me he was busy. And then a guy messaged me on WhatsApp, saying my son was in solitary confinement. I asked the guy what solitary confinement looked like. He said they raise the bunk in the morning and lower it in the evening, you can't sit, you have to walk the cell all day. I thought, “Well, it's not lethal, it's better than war.” I don't know if a mop-stick in the ass or electric shocks are better than going to war; I can't see it from here. But I still told the guy to tell my son not to agree to anything.

I don't know if a mop-stick in the ass or electric shocks are better than going to war; I can't see it from here

I calculated the approximate date when he should have been released, called the duty officer on that day, and asked why my son wasn't calling if he was supposed to be released. They told me he was probably sent to work immediately. Then I called for several more days, and they kept telling me he was busy. Finally, they gave me another number. There, they told me my son had been transferred out of the colony, his personal file was missing, and they couldn't provide any information to third parties. There was no one else to ask. Naturally, I understood that he had been taken to the SMO, certainly not to the Sochi dolphinarium.

At the front

A few days later, my son called and said he was in Novoazovsk. I started yelling at him. He said, “I'll tell you everything later; I had no other choice.” I don't know what they were doing to him there, and for how long - I don't know. He only told me that they took him out of solitary confinement, gave him civilian clothes to change into; they didn't let him take his things from the barracks, and they promptly put him in a police van.

I started yelling at him. He said, “I'll tell you everything later; I had no other choice.” I don't know what they were doing to him there, and for how long

From there, they took them to a military airfield, loaded them onto an IL-76, flew to Rostov-on-Don. On the way, they made them sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense for six months with subsequent pardon and rehabilitation. They were to acquire the status of volunteers. From Rostov, they brought them to Novoazovsk on ZIL trucks, and put them in a former pioneer camp or at a former resort. There, they were given uniforms, weapons, and so on. After two weeks or so, they were driven in the direction of Marinka or Maryanivka - he always got confused with the names. There, they were placed in the forest strip; he didn't specify the exact location but said it was 25 kilometers from the frontline. From that moment on, they lived in trenches.

Wagner PMC recruitment center in Rostov-on-Don
Wagner PMC recruitment center in Rostov-on-Don

At the same time, they could go to the local store and buy food there. For example, he once asked me to wire him 3,000 rubles; he wanted to buy Doshirak noodles and sausages. Moreover, we sent the money directly to the owner of the store where my son shopped. Then he asked for money for gear. He said, “Tomorrow a car will arrive and sell us knee and elbow pads. What they gave us is all crooked and rough.” He mentioned they were given heavy bulletproof vests that hurt their shoulders.

After that, they started going to the firing range every day. After the firing range, about ten days later, they were taken to Donetsk. From there, he wrote to me that there was an opportunity to buy a mobile phone; we transferred him 11,000 rubles. He bought a SIM card issued by the DNR carrier Phoenix, and I added 450 rubles, so he could make phone calls.

I asked him to send a photo. Before that, the last photo I had of him was when he was 18. I thought I didn't even have a picture for putting on his tombstone or for declaring him missing. But I couldn't explain this to him. He sent several photos - some of them selfies and some landscapes.

I thought I didn't even have a picture for putting on his tombstone or for declaring him missing

After that, we talked a lot, but it was strange. I would yell at him: “You're going to die, and we'll never know anything about you.” I understood that he could die tomorrow, that these could be my last conversations with my son. I had no illusions; I didn't think there was any chance for him to survive. I knew it was all over. He hadn't died yet, but I was already crying from morning to night. My grandmother and I begged him not to kill anyone. We could live with a drug addict in the family, but not with a killer...

I begged him to escape, surrender as a prisoner, just find a way to get away somehow. He said the police were guarding them, they couldn't move freely, and in the evening, they handed over their ammunition. I told him to write down the phone number and surrender as a prisoner. But he didn't consider these options. He told me about how they were dressed and fed, how a field kitchen arrived. I asked about his military unit, whether he had an identification token, whether he was officially registered, but he didn't know anything. As for his salary, he said it was around 200,000, but he didn't know when it would be paid. I tried to find some clues because I understood there would be no one to ask later, especially since he wasn't officially registered. Every day he would say that the headquarter staff were coming and would be there soon, but they never arrived.

Once they arranged a bathhouse for them. The bathhouse was a KAMAZ truck with stalls and hot water. At that time, I thought, “They probably brought it before the battle so they could wash up before being killed.” On May 7-8, we transferred more money to him - he wanted meat, and on the 8th, they were grilling kebabs. That's when he sent the last photo. Towards the end, my son was spouting some nonsense, saying he was enjoying great views, to which I replied, “Of course, you're abroad.” I tried to argue, “You're in Ukraine, you're an occupier, you scum.” He wrote back, “Nah, in Mother Russia.” Such a scoundrel. I think they were subjected to propaganda. There's no other way; otherwise, they'd have all deserted. Our correspondence was quite harsh.

I tried to argue, “You're in Ukraine, you're an occupier, you scum.” He wrote back, “Nah, in Mother Russia.” Such a scoundrel

I'm sure that if people stopped getting paid for their involvement in the war, 90% of them would leave. People are heavily in debt, suffocated by mortgages. I work at the post office, and I see several tons of letters every day. And 90% of these letters are from the RES. People take out microloans just for holidays and gifts – to celebrate March 8th or set the table for a New Year holiday. You might as well accept the fact that you're poor, what are you trying to prove? But no, people would push themselves further and further.

On May 9th in the morning, he wished me a happy holiday. In response to the congratulations, I sent him a message, saying that we would have a different May 9th and our own victory. I wrote to him: “Glory to Ukraine.” My grandmother is a veteran; she reached Berlin, and her chest is covered in medals. She never said, “Let's repeat.” We always knew that war is something that should never be repeated. Not in any scenario - not in a victorious one, not in a losing one. And this spoiled May 9th... You can't escape it. It's sickening to the point of nausea. It makes you cringe, but you can't do anything about it.

At night, he sent a message: “Mom, we're about to storm the enemy's positions. Love you, kiss you, will be home soon.” And that was it, the last message. Then, on May 15th, I received a voice message that said: “Bro, tell the mother that Vanya is no longer with us.” I didn't tell anyone about my son back then – what was there to say? So, I received some message, so what? But they forwarded this message to the whole family. His comrades told me that at first, a tree fell on him and broke his legs; he waited for evacuation for three hours. But when the evacuation team arrived, they put him on a stretcher - four people were carrying it, and a shell hit the stretcher directly. It tore him apart, so his body was left behind. And the four people who were carrying the stretcher also died.

Death in the first battle

When they called me and told me about my son, I dialed two Ministry of Defense phone numbers with trembling hands, heard that those numbers did not exist, and went to work. The next day, I called all the phone numbers at the Ministry of Defense that I could find. No one answered. Then, I started joining various online groups where photos of killed Russians soldiers were posted. I sent paper letters as well. If they didn't want to give me an answer, they would sometimes reply they had received my letter but the sheet inside the envelope was blank. FSIN would reply: “Your relative signed a document not to disclose his location to third parties.” Two women received such letters. This is a perfect excuse.

In the process of searching, we found out that he and his unit were not listed in the Ministry of Defense but in Storm-Z. Vanya's father found the number of the deputy commander of their squad, I don't know how. After May 9th, that deputy commander ended up in the hospital. Vanya's father called him, and the deputy commander told him how our son died, and said that they themselves still hadn't received their military cards and paychecks. It turns out my son died before they could even register him, so now why bother registering those who are not there. The deputy commander promised that the unit's commander, who was in a coma, would tell us everything, but he died the next day. All the leads we had were cut off. Vanya's father kept calling the deputy constantly, trying to get updates. He told us that all the bodies were left on the battlefield - helicopters flew in and dumped some dirt on them. His last voice message was about how he couldn't tell us anything more because he had already been reprimanded for revealing so much.

A mercenary with a Storm-Z chevron
A mercenary with a Storm-Z chevron

At present, according to the documents, my son appears to have simply left the colony. Was he sent for serving his sentence elsewhere or was he sold for organs? What happened? They have corrupted the entire judicial system. I don't know how this state exists. It relies solely on the security forces, not on the law.

There's this video where a raccoon dips cotton candy into water, and it dissolves. That's exactly how I felt — like my son was slipping through my fingers like sand. I wanted to stomp my foot and fix everything, but you have no control over it at all. You just sit there, watching from the sidelines, and can't do anything. I had told him everything about this war, told him that thousands were dying there, and yet he wasted his life like this. His foolishness ruined him. He never grew up, he remained a child. He didn't realize that people were dying there, and there were no extra lives, like in a computer game. But at least he didn't kill anyone — he died in his first battle.

“In the camp, you had to pay 3,000 rubles a month, or they would make you suffer. We didn't have that kind of money”

Sofia; her husband died near Bahmut:

My husband got into prison for using drugs, and in our country, half the population is in for that. He was there for less than a year when the Wagner PMC arrived. The first time he didn't go. We discussed it over the phone, but it was more like joking. Some time passed, he didn't call for a long time, and then he called and said he was going. They took him on my birthday, in October. In essence, he made the decision without discussing it with me. So, you could say we didn't really talk about his decision.

I understand that he would have left even if he had been home: he had served in the army, and he was never a coward. So it wasn't a forced decision to escape punishment. Although, of course, he wanted to get back home. Well, the camp he ended up in after the trial also played a role: there, you had to contribute money to the common fund every month. And if you didn't, you would get in trouble, and he was not the kind of person to tolerate that. I don't know exactly what happened: he always said it was better for me not to know. He tried to protect me from all this as much as he could. They wanted exactly 3,000 rubles every month. That's not counting the money and food parcels you need to send to support him.

Who can afford to send such amounts there? I have two small kids, and his mother is a teacher. 3,000 rubles may seem like pocket change, but back then, it was a significant amount for us. I was left alone with the kids, and I simply didn't have extra money. We helped as best as we could, but serving a prison term in this country is more expensive than just living. Maybe if it hadn't been for the kids, I would have focused on this more, but the children were a priority. He understood that too. As soon as he got there, he wanted to work. He managed to get a job as a seamster. But the condition there were horrendous; they worked almost 17 hours a day, for peanuts of course. But when he started working, he immediately said he would at least arrange for those meager earnings to be sent to us.

Serving a prison term in this country is more expensive than just living

In total, everything played a role. Although the guy who was with him in training said that when asked, “Why are you going there?” he replied, “To stop them from coming to my door.”

Recruitment and war

Wagner made all kind of promises, just like everyone had said: amnesty, redemption through blood, and of course, a salary. But mainly they focused on starting a new life from scratch. If you watch the videos from any of the colonies, you can see that they were pushing their message very hard. Although some say it's recruitment, I don't think so. Of course, charisma and the right mindset are involved. I talked to someone who had returned from there, and he said, “They are like brothers there,” they instill that feeling in them.

Although some say it's recruitment, I don't think so. Of course, charisma and the right mindset are involved

Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out what happened and looking for those who were with him — there are very few left alive. He was in reconnaissance, something like that, I'm not well-versed in military terms. I only know that they were on the frontlines. And I know that when they were in the trench, they were told to wait, to stay put, but he went out and got caught in mortar fire. The documents say it happened at Artemovsk <that's what the Russian leadership calls Bahmut — The Insider>. But I can't say exactly where he was. He called me three times from there. He's the kind of person who always finds a way to make a call or somehow get in touch. When we talked, we couldn't say much, we only had a minute for “I love you, I miss you, how are the kids.”

Wagner fighters in Bahmut
Wagner fighters in Bahmut

At the end of January, they called his mother — she was indicated in his will. The next day, we went to get the documents. Of course, it didn't happen immediately; there were queues — both at the mortuary and at the place where they handed out paychecks. But everything went very quickly there. Overall, it wasn't more complicated than any other government institution. He died (according to the documents, at least) on January 14, and on February 5, we buried him at the Alley of Glory, where only military personnel are buried. He was 33 years old, and he would have turned 34 in February. The age of Christ.

We received everything — his salary, insurance, funeral expenses, and they even decorated him posthumously (he received a Wagner award and a medal for bravery). And overall, the attitude was very humane. Wagner didn't cheat. Many people say they didn't receive documents or money. I don't believe that; it's just their turn hasn't come yet. There are a lot of people, a lot of paperwork, awards and documents. I think it depends on the region. Although I know people who have returned and still haven't received compensation for injuries, they're still waiting.

I know cases where relatives can't find the bodies. But every case is unique. We were able to have an open casket funeral; his mother had the zinc casket opened. He was completely intact, just some scratches on his face — like a tiger scratched him. His mother simply said she couldn't look at him anymore, so we buried him in a closed casket. But in some cases, pardon me, it's only hands and feet that remain. But I know for sure that they treat the bodies with respect there. I mean, on the battlefield: the guys help each other and try to retrieve dead bodies even though they often get killed in the process. So sometimes there's simply no way to report — it's not always possible to identify the corpse. This is war, not a tea party. I don't think anyone wishes to hide anything.

Zinc caskets at a Wagner cemetery
Zinc caskets at a Wagner cemetery

I felt that something had happened, but for some reason, I thought he had been wounded. Of course, I didn't take this news well. I was shocked, I was in tears. I haven't told the children; they are very young. My daughter just turned four, and my son will be two. My daughter misses him a lot and asks about her dad; sometimes she cries. I told her that daddy went to work — what else can you say? I tell her that he loves her very much, and she's the most precious thing to him. She doesn't know what death and war are, and she doesn't need to know just yet. To tell a child, you need to be emotionally stable yourself, and I'm not ready for that yet. My son looks a lot like him. When he grows up, I'll tell him that his father is a hero. For me, my husband is still a hero. You have to have tremendous strength to go there. It doesn't matter why: it doesn't matter who you love more: your country, your mother, or your kids. Everyone who stayed there did it for someone here, who is now safe and alive.

“He said, 'If I don't go, I'll end up in the isolation cells, and I'd rather die with dignity'“

Alina; her husband died on his 40th birthday along with his entire squad:

The first time the PMC arrived was in September. Or rather, it was the first time my husband signed up, they had come earlier. All communications suddenly ceased, people were taken off work, everyone was removed from the barracks, and then the pep talk started: 'You will all be on equal terms with the soldiers, there will be weapons, provisions, it's a chance to start a new life and cleanse yourself of your sins with blood.' Then there was document processing and physical training. My husband called me and said, 'I'm sorry, I've made my decision.'

“You will all be on equal terms with the soldiers, it's a chance to start a new life and cleanse yourself of your sins with blood”

The next morning, our son and I were there for a short meeting with him... I calmly listened to him blabbering confidently about how “it had to be done”. As I was leaving I realized he wouldn't change his mind. I contacted whoever I could from the colony, and they quietly removed him from the lists. My husband was angry, but intact.

He continued to work as a foreman in the production workshops. And then the inspections started coming one after another, inquiring about the intricacies of the work, and a month later, they fired the head of the colony.

My husband said, “Now it's definitely over. If I don't leave, I'll end up in the isolation cells under the new administration. I want to live like a human being or die with dignity. It's war, you have to understand. It's either us or the conscripted kids. You take risks when you give birth, I take risks when I go to war. That's life. Everything is in God's hands.”

He dreamed of entering a cadet school in his childhood, but it didn't happen.

He told his mother about his decision, and she, not knowing how risky it was, saw it as an opportunity. I understood immediately that it was a death sentence because there was already feedback about the percentage of those who had been killed in action.

In early December, the Wagnerites came again. My husband signed up again. I didn't live that month; I merely existed. And he kept trying to find arguments to convince me. They didn't take him right away—there were various delays for various reasons, they were processing documents. My nerves were already like naked wires, and his started to fray too. I convinced him to write a refusal, but the operative said it was impossible.

We came to terms with it. I gave my blessing. We waited... He died on his 40th birthday along with his entire squad. We were informed ten days later.

We came to terms with it. I gave my blessing. He died on his 40th birthday along with his entire squad

After identifying his body, I dressed him in a military uniform, and together with his close relatives, we organized a funeral in his homeland, a memorial service attended by many people. We said our goodbyes, shed tears, and now we continue to live.

My husband consciously gave his life to protect young conscripts. He believed that everything was in God's hands, that events would unfold according to God's will, ultimately benefiting everyone.

Olga Romanova: “These people simply don't exist”

Journalist and founder of the Russia Behind Bars foundation, Olga Romanova, told The Insider that hundreds of relatives of missing mercenaries who were likely killed in action have reached out to her foundation, but their bodies are not being searched for, and often they are not even removed from the battlefield:

The recruitment of prisoners into the Wagner group began on June 26, 2022. At that time, many relatives came to us with requests to stop this, so they wouldn't go to war. We managed to prevent about a hundred people from being recruited and developed instructions on how to do it. It lasted until about mid-autumn. I was surprised that we had only one relative with a political motivation; the rest were just afraid. For example, I was amazed by the wife of the very first person we stopped from being recruited. Although she managed to have his recruitment cancelled, she said she just didn't want him to join a private military company, and if it had been the Ministry of Defense, she would have agreed.

I was surprised that we had only one relative with a political motivation; the rest were just afraid

But starting from mid-autumn, they began to take a written commitment from every prisoner who was going to war, not to disclose their personal information to anyone — not to relatives, lawyers, or third parties. For example, information on their whereabouts. So, when you try to challenge it, a prosecutor would say that all other information is classified as a state secret.

In January, Wagner recruited many prisoners in a colony in the Novosibirsk region, about three hundred people. Relatives were outraged and organized a picket near the colony. There were no political statements; they simply demanded that their men be left in the colony. Everybody else went to war, but the 20 relatives of those who participated in the picket stayed behind to finish their sentences — they were not touched. We had conflicts with the FSB over this issue, they were quite unhappy about the situation, but these 20 people stayed. It's the only case of what you may call a mass protest that I know of.

Currently, two distinct patterns have emerged: one among the families of prisoners of war and another among the families of people who have returned from the war and subsequently rejoined the military.

The first pattern involves women receiving a funeral arrangement, a sum of 5 million rubles, a sealed zinc casket, along with decorations, medals, and commendations, bestowing upon them the status of a widow or mother of a war hero, known as an “SMO Hero.” Essentially, these women were previously associated with men of questionable character, but they now hold an esteemed position in society. Subsequently, when these men reach out to them from captivity, they might receive responses like, “Greetings, Lusya, I'm a POW.” To which they reply, “You know what, Vasya, just stay there and keep it to yourself.” Authorities tend to overlook these cases to conceal the actual count of surrenders, even if it involves a 5 million ruble payout; their primary concern is to prevent higher-ranking officials from learning about these surrenders.

The second pattern unfolds when an individual recruited within a correctional facility returns with the designation of an “SMO Hero” and is promptly apprehended with a significant quantity of narcotics. In this scenario, their spouse or mother vocally alleges that the drugs were planted to discredit the Russian military and the hero of the special military operation. This scenario has become increasingly common.

In the Wagner PMC, at least they admitted that they had recruited these people, but as for the Ministry of Defense... They started recruiting prisoners from February 1, and we probably have hundreds of statements from the wounded and from mothers and wives of those missing without a trace, likely killed. There's a message that a soldier died, but his body cannot be found. Relatives call the Ministry of Defense, and they say that they don't have his token number. This mainly concerns prisoners recruited into the Ministry of Defense unit called Storm-Z. But they say it's the same everywhere now because they don't sign a contract with the ministry — I don't know why. So, there are huge difficulties with paychecks, with injury compensations, and so on. These people simply don't exist. There are problems with retrieving bodies from the battlefield and with identification. There's no one to collect them.

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