According to Ukrainian military intelligence, Russia’s Wagner private military company (PMC) has begun mass recruitment of Russian prisoners suffering from severe infectious diseases, in particular HIV and hepatitis C.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) reported on Oct. 25 that more than 100 prisoners with confirmed HIV or hepatitis C have been “mobilized” to the Wagner PMC from penal colony No. 5 in Metallostroy, a suburb of St. Petersburg, Russia.

To “label” the infected fighters, the Wagner command obliges them to wear red bracelets on their hands if they have HIV and white bracelets if they have hepatitis. Russian medics systematically refuse to provide care to the wounded with hepatitis or HIV, the HUR press center communicated.

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“There is growing resentment among other fighters forced to serve alongside those infected,” the message said.

Captive Russian fighters with HIV and hepatitis have already been seized in Ukraine, confirming information about the mass “recruitment” of infected prisoners to the Wagner PMC.

Wagner is a Russian private military company that, according to a wide range investigative reporting, is financed through Yevgeny Prigozhin – one of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Wagner actively participates in Russia’s wars in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, and other parts of Africa.

There is a long list of crimes in which Wagner mercenaries have been involved in Ukraine during the full-scale invasion, including atrocities in Bucha and a more recent attack on prisoners of war at the Olenivka penal colony.

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The Ukrainian military told Reuters in a written statement that the conscription rate had more than doubled in May and June compared to the previous two months, without providing the figures.

Wagner also operated on Ukrainian territory in 2014. The nascent PMC was alleged to have played a decisive role in the battles for the Luhansk airport and Debaltseve in the Donetsk region, when Ukrainian troops were surrounded and suffered severe losses during the battle. The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics continue to control those territories as a result of that offensive.

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