On 30 November, the UK sanctioned Russian officials behind the mobilization of Russians for war, as well as the recruitment of prisoners into the Wagner private military company.
Particularly, the UK sanctioned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who is responsible for overseeing the Russian weapons industry and responsible for equipping mobilized troops, and Arkady Gostev, Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, as well as Dmitry Bezrukikh, the head of the Federal Punishment Service of the Rostov Oblast, for supporting the recruitment of prisoners into the Wagner Group.
Bezrukikh and Gostev were said to have reportedly worked closely with oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, ally of Putin and head of the Wagner Group, to fill the ranks of the mercenary gang that is supporting Russia’s army in Ukraine, by drafing criminals, including murderers and sex offenders, in exchange for pardons from President Putin – resulting in Bezrukikh’s region being dubbed “The Wagner Group recruitment hub.”
Ten governors and regional heads have also been sanctioned. This includes the heads of Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kalmykia – some of Russia’s poorest ethnic republics, from which a significant number of conscripts have been drawn. Also sanctioned were Ella Pamfilova, chairperson of the Central Election Commission, and Andrey Burov, head of the regional election commission in Rostov, who were both responsible for organizing the sham referendums in the four temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine. Pamfilova has since actively supported Russia’s forced mobilization.
“The Russian regime’s decision to partially mobilize Russian citizens was a desperate attempt to overwhelm the valiant Ukrainians defending their territory. It has failed. Today we have sanctioned individuals who have enforced this conscription, sending thousands of Russian citizens to fight in Putin’s illegal and abhorrent war,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.
The first reports on the recruitment of prisoners to the Wagner PMC appeared in July 2022. By September, videos of Wagner founder and financier Yevgeny Prigozhin personally speaking in the prison colonies began to appear on social media.
According to a video released in September, Prigozhin not only promises pardon and payment to the war participants but also warns of execution in case of desertion.
Recently, Russia had allowed mobilizing those convicted of heavy crimes.
Prigozhin, a businessman informally known as “Putin’s chef,” promises convicts that they will be pardoned after six months of fighting against Ukraine. A pardon for a prisoner requires a decree from the Russian president, yet no such decree was seen yet.
Recently, a Wagner mercenary and ex-convict was executed with a sledgehammer by his own for surrendering to Ukraine.
Analysts from the ISW have noted that Prigozhin is becoming a political force in Russia.