war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia releases convicted mass murderer to fight in Ukraine, then awards him ‘for bravery’

Halya Coynash

Ivan Neparatov and the Russian state award ’for courage’ in killing Ukrainians for money and freedom from full liability for multiple murder Photos posted by

Ivan Neparatov and the Russian state award ’for courage’ in killing Ukrainians for money and freedom from full liability for multiple murder Photos posted by

Ivan Neparatov, leader of a Russian criminal gang, was serving 25 years for five murders and multiple other crimes when he was offered his freedom and money in exchange for fighting Russia’s war against Ukraine.  He was one of at very least one thousand convicted criminals who have agreed to fight in the Wagner unit, and one of an unknown number who have already been killed.  It is likely that all such ‘fighters’ are intentionally used as cannon fodder, to avoid questions upon their return to Russia, but Neparatov did, nonetheless, posthumously receive a state award ‘for bravery’ from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.  One assumes that certain details about this ‘defender of Russia’ will be omitted from any official documentation.

The issue is not only Neparatov’s criminal past.  It is illegal in Russia to be a mercenary, yet the so-called ‘Wagner private military company’ [the Wagner unit] are openly recruiting convicted criminals, offering substantial amounts of money, as well as the promise of freedom in exchange for agreeing to fight against Ukraine.  The prisoners are visited in prison, with the Wagner unit recruiters accompanied by Penal Service officials and members of the FSB [Security Service].  At least some of the recruiting visits are reported to be with the head of the Wagner unit, Dmitry Utkin and its financer, Yevgeny Prigozhin, or ‘Putin’s chef’, the millionaire under western sanctions who is himself a convicted criminal, imprisoned twice for violent crimes. 

Russia has been using the Wagner unit and other so-called ‘private military companies’ since 2014, with such fighters invariably called ‘volunteers’, and all mention of pay avoided.  The new recruitment of convicted prisoners will doubtless present serious paperwork problems, with the prisoners probably only referred to as being ‘transferred’ to another, unspecified. ‘prison’.  This is yet another reason why it seems safe to assume that none will return alive, it being much easier for the penal service to account for dead prisoners, than to explain their ‘release’. who reported Neparatov’s state award says that he was the leader of a gang who was sentenced to 25 years for five murders in the Moscow region.  Judging by the considerable number of charges they were convicted of, he and other members of his gang were responsible for multiple murders, linked with abduction and armed robbery.  Neparatov was imprisoned in a harsh regime prison colony in Pskov region and would have had ten years left of his sentence. notes that “in order to bring down a state, it is sufficient to imprison the innocent, such as Alexei Navalny; Ilya Yashin; Sergei Furgal and Vladimir Kara-Murza , and to free from accountability and punishment the guilty. Putin in 2022 has begun to do everything possible to ensure that Russia is destroyed from inside.”

Officially, the Kremlin and Russia’s defence ministry claim that all is going to plan and would deny both the use of and the need for mercenaries.  On 2 September, for example, defence minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that the current system for training military personnel makes it possible for Russia to totally supply its army with ‘professionals’.  As pointed out, that upbeat claim coincided with Wagner Unit recruiters’ visits to prisons to entice them into fighting (and probably dying) in Ukraine. One of its sources had told that the prisoners had been offered a posthumous medal ‘for bravery’, personally signed by Putin, if they were killed, as well as a so-called ‘purple order ‘For blood and courage’ from one of the two Russian proxy Donbas ‘republics’.  This was as well as more pay (or a once-off payment to their families) than the men would ever be able to earn honestly.

There have been reports of such recruitment of prisoners since July with the information most often passed to independent Russian media sources or human rights organizations from prisoners who rejected the ‘offer’ or the families of men who had vanished and were feared to have agreed to fight.  There is no way of independently verifying the information, but similar or identical accounts are clearly coming from various sources.

On 1 September, ‘Vot Tak!’ reported that in just two prison colonies in the Rostov oblast, Prigozhin had managed to get a thousand convicted prisoners for the Wagner unit in Ukraine.  A prisoner, who asked that his colony’s number not be named, said that around 300 men had agreed to kill for their ‘freedom’ and money in Ukraine.  A prisoner from Prison Colony No. 15, who refused to fight, told them that Prigozhin’s offer in his colony had been taken up by 700 men, almost half the total number.  Both Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin had reportedly arrived at the prison colony on Prigozhin’s own helicopter.  The ‘Vot Tak!’ source reported that Prigozhin had ”looked for murderers and robbers for the war in Ukraine, had spoken about his own time in prison and how he had “slaughtered Negroes [sic] in Africa”,  He reportedly told the prisoners that “when you get there, do what you want with the Ukrainians, you won’t get into any trouble for that.”

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