A notorious drug dealer who, along with his wife, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2018 has been pardoned by President Putin and appointed to an NGO leadership position after serving with the Wagner PMC in Ukraine, Russian media reports.

The Russian news site Insider.RU, citing the Важные истории (Important Stories) investigative journal report concerning Dmitry Karavaichik, who was given the nickname of “Russia’s Walter White” (the lead character in the US TV series Breaking Bad) after he and his wife, Diana Gribovskaya, were arrested and imprisoned in 2018 for making and selling amphetamines.

Evidence provided to the court said that Karavaichik was directly involved in the manufacturing the drug, with Gribovskaya in charge of selling the product to dealers. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison and she was given a 16 year sentence.

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Karavaichik was released from prison in 2022 to serve in Putin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine as a mercenary with the Wagner Group, according to Newsweek in January 2023.

He later said in an interview with Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that part of his motivation for volunteering was to secure his wife’s release: “I hope now I can somehow get her out too. I'd do anything for that.”

It seems he was successful, as it has been reported that both he and his wife have now been pardoned. He has been made deputy head of the Leningrad Frontier Foundation, an NGO set up in August 2022 by the governor of the Leningrad Region, Aleksandr Drozdenko and St. Petersburg businessman, Ilya Traber.

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On being appointed Karavaichik said “I now hold the position of Deputy Director of the foundation, I help fully on security issues. We work on humanitarian aid, we cooperate with the military recruitment center of the Leningrad Region. I’ll soon be traveling to the special military operation zone on a business trip.”

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Asked about his wife he said that she has returned to her work as a teacher: “… but not at school — [she teaches] where it’s necessary,” he added without giving further details.

According to the report by Important Stories (IStories) the NGO has received nearly ₽60 million ($650,000) in donations from citizens throughout Russia to provide support to Moscow’s troops fighting in Ukraine.

However, reports in Russian news sites sokalinfo.com and The Free Russian Press says that almost two thirds of that were spent on products and services produced by companies run by Oleg Barzinsky a close associate of both Drozdenko and Traber. Traber is also reputed to be heavily involved in organized crime within the city and surrounding region.

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