Russian soldiers were convicted of over 100 murders when they returned home last year, a report says

Russian soldiers were convicted of over 100 murders when they returned home last year, a report says
  • Russian military personnel convicted of murder increased by 900% in 2023, a report says.

  • Russian soldiers were found guilty of 116 murders in 2023, the Mediazona website reported.

  • About 15,000 pardoned prisoners returned to Russia, some of whom committed new crimes.

Russian military personnel were convicted of 116 murders in 2023, Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet, reported.

That's a nearly 900% increase from the previous year when there were 13 convictions, the UK Ministry of Defence posted on X.

The data came from Russia's Judicial Department of the Supreme Court's published statistics on the work of courts for 2023, Mediazona said.

Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and desensitization to violence bred on the battlefield often linger long after a military conflict ends. Alcoholism and drug abuse exacerbate these problems, said the UK defense ministry last week.

"The high number of homicides by serving and veteran Russian soldiers are likely in part due to enduring war-related chronic poor mental health issues," it wrote.

This is compounded by the return ex-convicts who volunteered to serve in Ukraine to secure their freedom. They were men with a preexisting propensity for criminality and extreme violence, said the UK defense ministry.

Citing Olga Romanova, the head of Russia Behind Bars, The New York Times reported that 15,000 pardoned prisoners had returned to Russian society after serving in penal military units with the Wagner Group and Storm Z. 

Members of Wagner group looks from a military vehicle in Rostov-on-Don late on June 24, 2023.
Soldiers with the Wagner Group in a military vehicle in Rostov-on-Don in June 2023.ROMAN ROMOKHOV/AFP via Getty Images

The New York Times report detailed cases of high-security prisoners in Russia being offered a clean slate and freedom by the Wagner mercenary group if they agreed to fight in Ukraine.

A former prisoner turned Wagner Group soldier was sentenced last month by the Kirov court to 22 years for the crimes of murdering and raping an elderly woman post-discharge, said the UK defense ministry.

An ex-prisoner and repeat offender, Viktor Savvinov, who was pardoned after serving in Ukraine earlier this year, was accused of murdering two people upon returning to his native village, reports say.

"It is a story about invisible violence," Kirill Titaev, a Russian sociologist and criminology expert at Yale, told the Times. "It is a big problem for the society, but one they do not recognize."

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the risk of pardoned convicts reoffending upon their release "inevitable," the Times reported

"But the negative consequences are minimal," Putin said.

Newsweek reported in March that Russia had recruited so many inmates for the war effort in Ukraine that it's closing down some prisons.

The Kremlin is now resorting to recruiting female convicts to replenish its troops.

According to recent UK estimates, about 450,000 Russian personnel have been killed or wounded, with tens of thousands more deserting their posts since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

The Times reported that in fall 2023, recruiters toured Russian prisons offering female inmates a pardon and $2,000 a month — 10 times the national minimum wage — in return for serving in front-line roles for a year.

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