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Convicted killer recruited by Wagner Group returns from Ukraine, handed 12-year sentence for new murder in Rostov

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The Sovetsky District Court in Rostov-on-Don has sentenced Sergei Rudenko to 11 years and 6 months in a maximum-security penal colony on charges of theft and murder, according to reports from Russia’s Investigative Committee and the Regional Prosecutor’s Office. The case details are also available on the court's website. Rostov-based publication Ro.Today, has identified Rudenko as a former Wagner Group mercenary, and local Telegram channel Don Mash published photos of him adorned with awards similar to those received by the private military company’s mercenaries.

The investigation revealed that in April 2023, the 34-year-old Rudenko responded to an online advertisement for an apartment rental on Rostov’s Zhmaylova Street. He met the 52-year-old landlady, and the two began arguing over the rental fee. Rudenko then strangled the woman with a shoelace, caused multiple stab wounds to her neck, and fled, carrying the victim's mobile phone.

This is not Rudenko’s first felony — or his first murder. In 2018, Rudenko was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing his girlfriend during a fight and stealing her jewelry and three phones.

Starting in the summer of 2022, prisoners from Russian jails were recruited to join the war in Ukraine. The recruitment of convicts began with the Wagner Group, and later involved the Russian Ministry of Defense. Prisoners who joined the mercenary group, and later the armed forces, were promised potential pardons.

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