Late last year, recruiters from the Wagner PMC began a second tour of the colonies where they had already recruited volunteers for the war in Ukraine last summer. However, this time the process has been dialed down, and there are much fewer people willing to go to war, Mediazona says.
Prigozhin no longer arrives by helicopter, Mediazona reports. Instead, lower-ranking recruiters are sent to the colonies. Inmates no longer line up on the parade ground, as was previously the case. The prisoners themselves have lost their faith in the Wagner PMC recruiters, and if previously hundreds of people agreed to sign contracts with the PMC, now there are hardly a few dozen according to the news portal’s interlocutors.
“A man who is now near Bakhmut contacted us recently [at the end of last year]. He said he regretted going there. He said that only 20% of those who had left here were alive,” a prisoner from one of the Ural colonies told the publication.
Both the convicts themselves and human rights activists speak of the large number of deaths among prisoners in the war. The exact number of deaths is unknown, but by early February Mediazona confirmed the deaths of 567 enlisted prisoners, based on public reports alone. The publication notes that because the recruitment situation has worsened, Prigozhin's media have launched a PR campaign in which they report on prisoners who have survived and returned home safely.
The Insider wrote about Prigozhin personally recruiting mercenaries in penal colonies back in late August.