“According to most of the world’s military experts, the Russian army is one of the strongest armies in the world, second only to the US armed forces in some respects.” From Wikipedia
The longer the war continues and the more successful the actions of the Ukrainian army, the more obvious the Kremlin’s problems with recruiting personnel for the “special operation” become. Putin, for now, is afraid to announce a general mobilization because he understands that this could threaten the stability of his regime. The failed covert mobilization does not give the Kremlin the desired results. That is why they decided to resort to the old method tried by Stalin, namely, to assemble the broken and broken parts with the help of the prisoners. However, the effectiveness of this method of strengthening the Russian troops fighting in Ukraine is quite doubtful, and the consequences for Russia itself are quite dangerous.
On September 14, a video appeared in the Russian media and social networks, in which a man very similar to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the private military company (PMC) Wagner, gave a speech in one of the Russian prisons, where recruitment is actually taking place prisoners for the war in Ukraine. This is an important event that shows the real state of the “second world army” and initiates processes in Russia that may have deplorable consequences for it.
It is worth noting what “keys” to the minds and hearts of the prisoners Prigozhin used to make them believe him and go to war. The content of the video is sloganeering, programmatic, with clear messages to the Russian audience. It answers the key questions of potential mercenaries and feeds them ideologically.
For example, Prigozhin promised that there would be no war for more than six months. After that – a return home, a pardon and no prison. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that even the more socially protected categories in the Russian army, such as professional soldiers (kontraktniki), do not find it so easy to leave Ukraine at the end of their contract.
Prigogine talks about successful operations, about prisoners who perform well in battle. In confirmation of this, quite a few videos of yesterday’s prisoners fighting in Ukraine are circulating on the network. In them they congratulate their acquaintances in prisons, say that they are doing well, tell how successfully they are fighting, and invite them to come to them. It is more than likely that these videos are staged because, knowing the problems with the provision and treatment of those mobilized by the so-called LDPR, it is highly doubtful that disenfranchised Russian prisoners will be treated any better
According to the head of the PMC, the main function of the prisoners at the front is to be stormtroopers, who will not differ from the “professionals” from “Wagner. He says that they will be treated in the same way – even more loyally. All this can sounds very prestigious and enticing to the prisoners: from yesterday’s prisoner, abused by his guards and cellmates, to a respected stormtrooper. To enhance the effect of his words and show respect to potential mercenaries, “Putin’s cook” promises them a “normal burial” and “alley of heroes” in the event of death. In reality, however, their fate will probably be to be assault cannon fodder to be thrown into the most difficult sections. This can also be understood from Prigogine’s words that the daredevils, “those , which move forward, i.e. “hounds” survive better”. At the same time, he glosses over the fact that those who are first will be the first to be hit by Ukrainian artillery and aviation.
At the same time, Prigozhin points out that those who, arriving in Ukraine, begin to doubt, will be declared “deserters” and shot. “No one backs down, doesn’t back down, doesn’t give up,” he says, and here he can definitely be trusted.
Also interesting are his words that even those who are in prison for drugs can “get a chance” to fight in Ukraine. Prigozhin also says that his PMC “treat very carefully those who are in prison for sexual crimes, they understand that there are mistakes. That is, if Prigozhin’s PMC does not ignore even drug addicts and rapists, then Putin has a very big problem with equipping his troops who are fighting in Ukraine.
It is also interesting that the video with the recruitment of prisoners for the war was also published on the Telegram channel of the official spokesman of the Kremlin – RIA Novosti. At the same time, PMCs are banned by law in Russia, and Putin himself has never officially recognized their existence. It turns out that in order to get cannon fodder from among the prisoners, the Kremlin has decided to take off the masks and officially recognize its illegitimate military child.
Shortly before the publication of the video, “Komsomolskaya Pravda” published a large material in which Prigozhin himself was quoted. The essence of this material boils down to this: “we sort of recruit prisoners for the war, but not in large numbers, and we take care of those we take. And in general, Prigozhin is a respectable person.”
The conclusions are:
Firstthe video with Prigozhin is a de facto admission by the Kremlin of the failure of “hybrid mobilization”, in particular that carried out through the creation of “volunteer battalions”.
Second, against the background of already almost official statements about the shortage of personnel among the Russian regular troops participating in the war, the recruitment of prisoners for participation in the war sounds like an alternative to mobilization. And Russian society, which is ready to support the “special operation” only from their sofas, also silently approves of such a move by the Kremlin. In particular, in the comments of the Russian telegraph channels, they already write about it in the following way: “To some extent, this is good. Young people will not be mobilized. And the biggest garbage will be buried in the Ukrainian land.”
Third, the training of personnel that could qualitatively replace or reinforce the Russian units and divisions operating in Ukraine takes more than a month. And today, Russia does not have that kind of time. Putin urgently needs cannon fodder to carry out various most dangerous tasks and plug all the holes on the front.
Fourth, from the point of view of the “special operation” image, Prigozhin’s video is a complete failure and undermines Russia’s already weak mobilization capacity. After all, murderers, rapists and drug addicts hardly fit into the image of “liberation warriors”. Moreover, many of those who would like to fight in Ukraine would hardly be happy to be in a trench with criminals.
Fifth, it should not be ruled out that if the “Prigozhin method” continues to be used, Russia may face another “cold summer of 1953”, when about 1.3 million prisoners were released due to Khrushchev’s amnesty, which led to a sharp increase in crime in the USSR. Now the situation may turn out to be even more difficult, as people who were imprisoned under “serious articles” and had the right to kill will return (although not all) to Russia. But at the moment, the Kremlin is not thinking about it.
In the war frenzy reigning in Putin’s Russia, the system has clearly broken down.
Igor Fedyk is a Ukrainian journalist and military analyst. The analysis was written for OFFNews