According to opposition activist Alexei Navalny, Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), made two visits to the penal colony where he is currently serving his sentence (IK-6 in Melekhovo in the Vladimir region) to recruit prisoners for the war in Ukraine.
In a social media post, Navalny referred to the words of an eyewitness, as he was not personally present at the meeting with Prigozhin. “[He] arrived by helicopter, all the convicts were gathered at the [prison] stadium together with the bosses. Prigozhin was short and bald. He said: ‘I've done 10 years myself, I'm calling on you to be my stormtroopers. In six months I'll write each of you a pardon, you have five minutes to think about it,’” Navalny quotes him as saying.
According to Navalny, about 80-90 prisoners expressed a desire to sign up for the Wagner PMC after Prigozhin’s first visit.
In late August, The Insider reported that Prigozhin was personally involved in the recruitment of prisoners in penal colonies across Russia. According to the prisoners, Prigozhin made no secret of the fact that Vladimir Putin personally sanctioned the recruitment of criminals for the war, and added that he “represents an organized criminal group helping the Russian army.” The Wagner Group founder promised recruits payouts of 100 to 230 thousand roubles ($1,400 to $3,200) per month, with preference given to those convicted of murder. On September 14, the Telegram channel VChK-OGPU published a video depicting Prigozhin giving a recruitment speech to a group of convicts at penal colony No. 6 (IK-6).