The Wagner mercenary group said Thursday that it had ended its recruitment drive at prisons across Russia, which aimed to bolster Moscow’s forces fighting in Ukraine.
“The recruitment of prisoners to the private mercenary group Wagner had stopped completely,” its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement distributed by his press service.
Reports emerged in mid-2022 that the Kremlin-linked businessman was recruiting inmates to fight, promising amnesty on their return to Russia if they survived.
Prigozhin added in the statement that all “obligations” towards those working for the group were being fulfilled.
Wagner forces claimed to have spearheaded the assault on Ukraine’s eastern salt-mining town of Solder that fell under Russian control in January.
They are also playing a key role in the offensive for neighbouring Bakhmut, which has been the scene of heavy fighting for months.
The private fighting force has several times claimed battlefield victories ahead of Russia’s army.
Founded in 2014, Wagner has been implicated in conflicts in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
It shot to prominence after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
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