The Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), owned by “Putin's chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, has begun recruiting mercenaries in prisons in the Central African Republic (CAR). The PMC is looking for people to participate in military operations in other regions, including Ukraine, according to a report by The Daily Beast citing two senior officers in the CAR.
According to these reports, the Wagner Group is recruiting dozens of rebels who have been detained, including for the murder and rape of women and children. According to the officers, many of the recruits are terrorists who controlled much of the CAR for about a decade during the civil war, using violence and intimidation against civilians.
An officer working at the military headquarters in Bangui, the capital of the CAR, said the Wagner PMC began recruiting prisoners in October. “Nobody can stop them because the government has given them so much power to act the way they want,” he told The Daily Beast.
Another military official told The Daily Beast that the rebels freed by Russian mercenaries will work overseas.
“They [Wagner] said they needed urgent manpower in Mali and Ukraine,” the officer, who works with CAR’s army, told The Daily Beast. “I think more than 20 people we’ve been holding [for very serious crimes] have been released.”
Although the detainees are in the custody of local forces, Wagner PMC mercenaries, who have been active in CAR since the local government turned to Russia for security assistance and weapons supplies in 2017, have been influencing the central African country's security authorities.
The Wagner PMC began recruiting people in Russian penal colonies this summer. Convicts told The Insider in August that the owner of the PMC, criminal and serial offender Yevgeny Prigozhin, personally recruits prisoners in Russian prisons, offering a release in six months in exchange for the convicts’ participation in the invasion of Ukraine. A video depicting Prigozhin’s speech to a group of prisoners was widely circulated on social media several months ago.
Prigozhin is a criminal and a serial offender, having been tried for theft, fraud, and the involvement of minors in criminal activity. His mercenaries are involved in many operations abroad, in many cases (such as the invasion of Ukraine) – under the direct command of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence directorate. Prigozhin received the nickname “Putin's chef” due to his lucrative catering contracts with the Kremlin. The founder of the PMC also finances the “Agency for Internet Research” – Russia’s largest “troll farm.”
At the end of October, Russia’s State Duma passed a law that allows the mobilization of citizens with an outstanding criminal record or unexpunged conviction for a number of serious crimes – judging by the list of exceptions, murderers and rapists are currently being sent to war in Ukraine.