From Prison Cells to Special Units: Russia’s New Recruits

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Vladimir Osechkin says he studied law because he wanted to Law enforcement. To be a good sheriff, he tells me. But after a few bad brushes with Russia’s justice system — he says he was falsely accused of murder until the police found the right man, and then years later when the car sales empire he built became too big for his own Russian benefit — his plans faltered. changed

He describes both experiences as terrifying and violent. Osechkin has since dedicated his life to exposing torture in Russian prisons. There is so much abuse, he says, that many prisoners on the Ukraine front face a bloody and uncertain future, and appeal enough to lure recruiters as Russia’s defense chiefs look to the prisons to bolster the ranks of the army. .

“In this twenty-first century gulag, you can be insulted, beaten, raped. You can be bullied in the most terrible way. Or you will be forced to work in an industrial field. From 7 am to 11 pm or at least more days. More than twelve hours, with faulty, outdated equipment, and you risk losing an arm or an eye,” Osechkin told Fox News via Zoom from his home in France. “They want to leave the torture dungeon any way they can. Many don’t realize they’re likely to be killed in a week or two.”

Osechkin runs the human rights group Gulagu.net. He himself is said to be one of Russia’s most wanted men for broadcasting dramatic torture videos from a prison in Saratov and for dissident news within the ranks of Russia’s security service, the FSB.

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Russia, for its part, says there is a fraud case against Osechkin. Allegations of fraud in Russia have been used liberally by many to put anyone in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, such as Alexei Navalny.

Osechkin’s active recruiting calls Russian prisoners A cynical act to work on the war front. According to his sources – he receives tips from several people, including the families of inmates – these efforts have increased recently.

The army needs sappers because the Russian army has lost a lot and it takes years to train D-miners. Russia, according to Osechkin, is looking for men to send Ukrainian soldiers as a kind of bait — to draw fire from the Russians to help them locate and then attack their positions. Ultimately, Osechkin says, they are tapping convicted killers and others with violent records to form “killer brigades” to shoot, mutilate and maim the “enemy.”

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FILE - A video is taken on July 29, 2022, of a destroyed prison barracks in Olenivka, an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.  Russia and Ukraine accused each other of firing on each other on Friday.  A prison in the separatist region of eastern Ukraine, an attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian military prisoners captured after the fall of the southern port city of Mariupol in May.

FILE – A video is taken on July 29, 2022, of a destroyed prison barracks in Olenivka, an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine accused each other of firing on each other on Friday. A prison in the separatist region of eastern Ukraine, an attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian military prisoners captured after the fall of the southern port city of Mariupol in May.
(AP Photo)

Osechkin says the number of takers for such offers dwindled at a point when inmates began to learn they could be used as cannon fodder. He believes the infamous man sometimes known as “Putin’s chef” made the rounds in prison himself. It’s not confirmed, but Osechkin isn’t the only one who’s heard the report.

Independent MediaZona outlet heard it from some inmates. The “chef” himself is an ex-convict. A billionaire involved in businesses ranging from catering to running the mercenary group Wagner, which he incidentally denies, Yevgeny Prigozhin is said to be close to the Russian president.

“Apparently, like an ace, like a trump card, Putin kicked out Prigozhin and personally sent him to visit prisoners,” Osechkin said, saying something Prigozhin could easily sell, “I was once in prison myself, and now I’m recruiting you. I have become a hero of Russia, and in Putin’s current system you too have a chance to climb the ladder, to become rich.”

Mediazone Prisoners were interviewed who allegedly overheard Prigogine offering them “pardons and money”. And at a meeting with recruiters, one inmate was told “we’re interested in murderers and thieves”.

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Police officers detain a protester as people gather in front of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.  Russia's Supreme Court has ordered the closure of one of the country's oldest and most prominent human rights organizations.

Police officers detain a protester as people gather in front of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered the closure of one of the country’s oldest and most prominent human rights organizations.
(AP Photo)

Osechkin, meanwhile, is beyond concerned that prisoners will be sent to their deaths on promises of good money, fame and honor or dreams of escape. He also says that he thinks the whole idea of ​​asking the already violent — murderers and thieves — to take up arms again is completely irresponsible and even reprehensible.

“Instead of correcting these people,” Osechkin says, “the prison system is taking their worst side and using them for its own purposes. I think most of them will not come back. But those who survive and return to Russia will pose an increasing threat to society,” he says. I ask how all this information finds its way out of cells and barbed wire Prisons of Russia.

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“Vladimir Putin and his public relations people are trying to create a myth that they are all-powerful and have an ultra-pessimistic system. In fact, it’s a mafia system. And like any mafia, people are primarily interested in money and corruption,” he said. Says, that’s not all. “Many people in the system are against the war itself. Millions of people work in the federal penitentiary system, and not all of them love Putin. Not all of them respect Putin. And not all of them are willing to participate in crimes against humanity and War crimes.

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