Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Private Military Company Wagner PMC, has commented on the recruitment of prisoners to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Prigozhin’s words were published by the Concord company, which he owns, on his VKontakte page.

“If I were a prisoner, I would dream of joining this friendly team not only to pay off the debt owed to the motherland but also to pay it with interest. And the last remark: those who do not want PMCs to fight, those who do not want to do anything, and, in general, those who do not like this, send your children to the frontline. It’s either PMCs and prisoners or your children — decide,” Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin called the participants of the PMCs “patriots who cannot allow the disgrace of their homeland” and “professionals of the highest level” who have “a well-established management system to the smallest detail.”

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“In general, if we summarize all your questions, what does it have to do with prisoners, PMCs, and a man who looks like Prigozhin? Russia has always been, is, and will be under the reliable protection of the Russian army,” Prigozhin said.

The fact that prisoners of Russian penal colonies are being recruited to participate in the war as part of Wagner PMCs has been reported by Russian media outlets since the end of July. The prisoners invited to the PMCs told reporters that Yevgeny Prigozhin visited the colonies in person.

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Jailed oppositionist Alexei Navalny published a video on Sep. 14, showing someone resembling Prigozhin speaking to prisoners. Concord, a company owned by Prigozhin, called the person in the video “monstrously similar” to Prigozhin. “Judging by his rhetoric, he is somehow engaged in carrying out the tasks of the special operation, and it seems that he is doing it successfully,” the company added in comments.

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