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

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Vladimir Osechkin says he studied law because he wanted to go into law enforcement. To be a good sheriff, he tells me. But after a few bad touches with the Russian justice system — he says he was falsely charged with murder until the police found the right man and was knocked down years later when the car sales empire he’d built grew too big for his own Russian assets — his plans changed.

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

“Within this 21st century gulag you can be humiliated, beaten, raped. You may be subjected to the most terrible bullying. Or you are forced to work in the industrial zone. From 7am to 11pm, or at least more than twelve hours a day, with broken, outdated equipment, and you risk losing a hand or an eye,” Osechkin tells Fox News via Zoom from his home in France. “They want to get out of the torture dungeons anyway. Many don’t realize they’re probably going to be killed in a week or two.”

Osechkin runs the human rights group Gulagu.net. He is said to be one of Russia’s most wanted men for distributing dramatic torture videos from a Saratov prison and spreading reports of discontent within the ranks of the FSB, Russia’s security services.

RUSSIAN OFFICIAL FLOATING TO AIRPORT EXPLOSION ‘COINCIDENT’, SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW NEAR IDENTICAL CRATERS

File photo – A contrail left by a passenger plane is seen behind a Russian state flag as it flies over the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Aug. 7, 2014. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)

Russia, for its part, has said it has a fraud case against Osechkin. Fraud charges in Russia are widely believed to be used liberally against anyone who has their sights on the Kremlin, such as Alexei Navalny.

Osechkin calls the active recruitment of Russian prisoners for work on the war front a cynical act. According to his sources – he gets tips from a range of people, including families of prisoners – these efforts have recently been ramped up.

The military wants sappers, as the Russian military has lost quite a few and it takes many years to train deminers. Russia, according to Osechkin, is also looking for men to send out as a sort of bait for Ukrainian soldiers — to draw fire from them to help the Russians trace their positions and then attack. Finally, Osechkin says, they tap convicted murderers and others with violent data to form “assassin brigades” to shoot, cut and maim “the enemy.”

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

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

Osechkin says the number of buyers of such offers dwindled at one point as prisoners began to realize they could be used as cannon fodder. He believes it prompted an infamous man sometimes referred to as “Putin’s Chef” to scout the prisons. This has not been confirmed, but Osechkin is not the only one to have heard the reports.

The independent Mediazona branch heard about it from a few inmates. The “chef” is himself an ex-con. Yevgeny Prigozhin became a billionaire from involvement in many businesses, from catering to running the Wagner mercenary group, which he denies, by the way, and is said to be close to the Russian president.

“Apparently, as an ace, as an trump card, Putin took Prigozhin out and personally sent him to prison meetings,” Osechkin said, adding that Prigozhin could sell easily, saying something like, “I myself was once in prison. and now I am recruiting you. I have become a hero of Russia and you also have a chance in the current system of Putin, to climb the ladder, get rich.”

Mediazona interviewed inmates who reportedly heard that Prigozhin had offered them “amnesty and money.” And while meeting with recruiters, one inmate recalled being told “we are interested in murderers and burglars”.

UKRAINE’S ZAPORIZHZHIA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT SUCCESSFUL WITH MORE PROTECTION, UN WARNS ‘GRAVE HOUR’ FOR NUCLEAR SAFETY

Police officers detain a protester as people gather in front of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, December 28, 2021. The Russian Supreme Court has ruled that one of the country's oldest and most prominent human rights organizations must be shut down.

Police officers detain a protester as people gather in front of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, December 28, 2021. The Russian Supreme Court has ruled that one of the country’s oldest and most prominent human rights organizations must be shut down.
(AP photo)

Meanwhile, Osechkin is not concerned about prisoners being sent to their deaths with promises of good money, fame and honor or dreams of escaping. He also says he thinks the whole idea of ​​telling the already violent people – the murderers and burglars – to take up arms again is completely irresponsible and even reprehensible.

“Instead of correcting these people,” Osechkin says, “the prison system takes their meanest, most meanest sides and uses them for its own ends. I think most of them will not return. But those who survive and return to Russia will pose a greater danger to society,” he says. I ask how all this information finds its way out of the cells and across the barbed wire of Russian prisons.

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“Vladimir Putin and his PR people are trying to build a myth that he is all-powerful and that they have a super-totalitarian system. In fact, this is a mafia system. And like any mafia, people are mainly interested in money and corruption,” he says. , adding that that’s not all. “Many people within the system are themselves against the war. Hundreds of thousands of people work in the federal penal system and not all of them like Putin. They don’t all respect Putin. And not all of them are willing to participate in crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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