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More than 28,000 violent prisoners including murderers and rapists have been freed from jails to fight for the Russian army in Ukraine, it has been claimed.
The scheme to pardon prisoners in return for six months service for mad Vlad's war has so far led to the release of more than five percent of the entire male jail population in Russia.
Yet the system is being abused with some “wealthy inmates” paying bribes to buy their way out of prison without going to fight, it is claimed.
READ MORE: Inside The Wagner Group – Putin's secret army waging bloody war on NATO's borders
This has so far netted the team of a close Putin crony along with criminal and prison bosses some £33 million, alleges a new report.
The astonishing 28,000 figure – revealed by independent Volya Telegram channel – is far higher than previous estimates, and despite the abuse most inmates are given perfunctory training then sent into battle.
A video this week showed 400 in a dozen prison vans on their way to training then the war.
The man behind the jailbird-to-fighter scheme is Putin’s ‘chef’ Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, according to reports.
He was seen this week in a speech in a bleak Mordovian penal colony offering inmates a deal in which they sign-up for six months after which they are officially pardoned by Putin, and free.
But Priogozhin warned they would be shot in summary executions if they deserted.
Prisoners who opt to fight for Putin are sent to the Wagner private army, “controlled” by Prigozhin, which fulfils military orders of the Russian defence ministry in Ukraine.
“According to various sources, from April to September the Federal Penitentiary Service has already handed over more than 28,000 people to [Wagner],” said Volya.
“Among those ‘recruited’….are [prisoners] who are not going to any war.”
These inmates – including wealthy money launderers – "simply paid for formal recruitment and went home”.
They were told to “lie low” for six months because officially they should be fighting for Putin in the Donbas or on another front in Ukraine.
One unnamed law enforcement source in the Main Directorate of Economic Security and Anti-corruption told Volya he knew of seven inmates released in this way with corrupt payments, with two more expected soon.
A prison service source told the channel: “An inmate pays [criminal bosses], the head of the prison colony who shares it with his chiefs, and Prigozhin's people.
“Then he signs a contract for service in Ukraine, and is taken out of the colony and [immediately] freed.
“There are two conditions: to lie low for six months until the pardon is granted, and better not go to Moscow or St Petersburg.”
“This offer is made only to truly wealthy convicts,” stated Volya.
Prisoners are charged between £43,000 ad £290,000 – depending on ability to pay – for the get-out-of-jail scam.
Despite the abuse, the majority go to fight.
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A perfect candidate is said to be a strong man of 30-to-40 years old, convicted of serious crimes such as murder, robbery and causing grievous bodily harm.
Jailbirds who become pro-Putin fighters are paid around £1,500 a month for the duration of their six month contract at the frontline.
If they are killed they will be declared heroes and their relatives receive some £72,500.
The recruitment of prisoners has been seen as evidence of Putin's desperation in his war with Ukraine amid recent defeats in Kharkiv region.
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