After the women’s prisons, Wagner recruits minors from institutes and children’s camps

Members pose at the opening of the PMC Wagner Center in St. Petersburg last November.

Last December, the loss of troops at the front encouraged the Wagner Group to search for new war personnel in the women’s prisons. They had already used Russian men’s prisons since the beginning of the offensive in Ukraine, but the countless casualties on fronts such as Bakhmut have forced them to look elsewhere for cannon fodder.

However, the rivalry between the paramilitary organization and the Ministry of Defense has caused the Kremlin to close the access of Evgueni Prigozhin’s men to all kinds of prisons, according to daily intelligence updates from the British Ministry of Defense.

Wagner enters the female prisons

The need for new resources Human rights beyond those offered by men’s prisons has redefined the recruitment strategy of the Wagner Group, which is reaching out to a new source of recruits: women’s prisons.

[Mercenarios o carne de cañón: Rusia quiere acabar con Wagner para colgarse la medalla de Bakhmut]

The General Staff of Ukraine has claimed to see in Donetsk Oblast a women’s wagon on a train that was importing troops to fight with the Russian side in the battle of Bakhmuta bloody front where the Kremlin sends Wagner mercenaries to weaken the political ambitions of Yevgeni Prigozhin.

Olga Romanova, activist against the abuses of the Russian prison system at the NGO Russian Behind Barsdenounces that the government extracts convicts from prisons from the end of 2022, when more than a hundred left a prison in the Krasnodar province with their whereabouts unknown. In addition, the Ukrainian army has reported the forced transfer of 50 women from a prison in the city of Donetsk for his military training.

Yevgeny Prigozhin himself claimed to have received a letter from the prison of Nizhny Tagilin the Sverdlovsk province, in which the areas applied to be admitted to enlist as medical staff. Wagner’s boss declared that he had stopped recruiting prison personnel at the end of February, in the context of tensions with the Ministry of Defense. From the penitentiary centers Wagner had taken more than 40,000 soldiers from the beginning of the offensive, according to The Times.

Wagner and the Kremlin recruit minors

For a few days now, the disappearance of prisons as quarries for combatants has required a new strategy recruitment by Wagner. According to the British Defense, Prigozhin’s next target is the young population.

Members pose at the opening of the PMC Wagner Center in St. Petersburg last November.


In March, local outreach teams were formed in Sport centers from more than 40 cities of the Russian Federation. This campaign offered professional orientation talks in institutes, where information was collected from interested students through questionnaires called “Young Warrior Requests”.

The recruitment of minors for war is not new, and Moscow has been carrying out integration programs in children’s camps for the re-education of Ukrainian children. The figure was at least 6,000 children as of February, according to Al Jazeera.

The children are assigned to one of the 43 camps that are spread across Russia and the occupied areas of Ukraine. There they receive patriotic and military education through a propaganda curriculum that includes field trips to patriotic sites, talks with veterans, and firearms training. There is no evidence that they are being sent to fight at the front.

The permanence of the little ones is extended for weeks, sometimes months. A Yale University study based on satellite imagery and public accounts reveals some explanations that the agents gave the children for their retention: “when we liberate Izium you will come home”, was said to one; “First, we have to correct your ideas pro-Ukrainian,” he explained to another.

In some cases, the requirement for release is that the parents come to pick up their children at camp. This condition seems somewhat difficult when the men are not allowed to leave the Ukraine, and the distance to the camp —which may just as well be in the Donbass as in some Siberian province— makes the trip an expensive and hard odyssey for the mother.

In addition to the forced transfer to children’s camps, Kremlin agents are holding Ukrainian children in order to later issue their adoption or foster in Russian families. These programs are coordinated under the figure of Maria Lvova-Belova, federal commissioner for the Rights of the Childand involve operations that may constitute war crimes.

Maria Lvova-Belova meeting with Vladimir Putin on the outskirts of Moscow, last Thursday.

Maria Lvova-Belova meeting with Vladimir Putin on the outskirts of Moscow, last Thursday.


According to official kyiv sources, Russia has taken more than 14,700 Ukrainian children, of which at least a thousand come from Mariupol. Some experts estimate even higher numbers.

The US State Department spokesman has stated that these “forced removals, re-education and adoption of Ukrainian children are a key element of the Kremlin’s systematic efforts to deny and suppress Ukraine’s identity, history and culture“. The same entity also warned of the “Putin’s war against children” and its possible long-term repercussions.

Russia denies these accusations, relying on the argument that if they take Ukrainian children in, it is because they were forced to flee Ukraine. This contradicts the Yale report, which identifies small with family or wards by the institutions of the Ukrainian state.

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