New evidence suggests that Putin freed violent offenders to boost the number of soldiers in Ukraine.
Vadim Tekhov, 33, was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison for the brutal murder of his ex-wife, Regina Gagieva.
But footage of his arrest by police in November 2022 revealed reports he was released early to fight with a Defense Ministry “special regiment” in Ukraine.
Tekhov, a former police officer, confronted the mother of his child at a store in Vladikavkaz, Russia, over alleged text conversations with other men.
When Ms Gagieva refused to unlock her phone for him, Tekhov stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and upper body.
Gagieva died in hospital and Tekhov was jailed after it emerged his ex-wife had repeatedly approached authorities with allegations of domestic abuse.
The story was widely reported in Russia last year, causing public outcry.
Tekhov detained in Russia in November 2022, less than a year after being jailed for murder
22-year-old mother of one Regina Gagieva, killed by her ex-husband Vadim Tekhov
The moment Tekhov, 33, attacked his ex-wife Regina Gagieva, 22, with a knife in 2021
Tekhov’s presence among hundreds of murderers freed to bolster the Russian military only came to light as he was re-arrested for alleged drug offenses, amid an allegation that he had the intent to supply narcotics to other soldiers.
In a video of his interrogation, Tekhov claims he was detained for drunkenness.
The total number of detainees now released for war is reported to be 35,000.
Evidence of Tekhov’s brutal attack caused public outcry in Russia last year
Independent Russian news outlet Mediazona reported yesterday that the number of prisoners in Russia’s penal colonies fell by 23,000 between September and October as Putin sought to recruit new troops to support his war effort.
The publication notes that the decline in the prison population “occurs against the background of the recruitment of prisoners to participate in the war in Wagner’s PMC detachments, which exist entirely outside the judicial field.”
On November 6, Putin signed a new law into force allowing the conscription of imprisoned convicts.
The Russian private mercenary organization Wagner Group, themselves accused of war crimes, tried to recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine in September.
Oligarch and Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, was filmed offering a pardon to violent criminals and sex offenders locked up in a Russian prison if they survived fighting in Ukraine for six months .
Prigozhin told the prisoners they should kill themselves instead of being captured in Ukraine, holding one grenade for the enemy and one for themselves.
Secretly filmed video shows Prigozhin admitting he represents Wagner’s private army, deployed by Putin in Ukraine.
He has previously denied a link to Wagner, who is known to have already recruited thousands of detainees as Russia deploys its most dangerous prisoners as fighters.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, told the detainees they would be pardoned if they survived the war with Ukraine for six months. They should commit suicide instead of being taken prisoner, he said
Prigozhin (marked) pictured with other Wagner Group fighters at NRL in August 2022
“I am a representative of a private war company, perhaps you have heard the name – Wagner Group,” he told the assembled inmates.
He continued, “The first sin is abandonment. Nobody deserts, nobody gives up, nobody surrenders. You will be taught what to do regarding surrender.
On July 29, 2022, a Russian prison in Molodizhne, Donetsk Oblast in Ukraine was destroyed, killing over 50 Ukrainian prisoners.
Ukraine claimed that Russia attacked its own penal colony “to cover up war crimes”.
Regina Gagieva, 22, died of 15 wounds inflicted with a kitchen knife, sparking public outcry
Russia relied on its large prison population to sustain previous wars.
Soviet leader Josef Stalin used penal battalions (“Shtrafbats”) made up of all but professional criminals to maintain momentum during the 1942 Russian counteroffensive against Nazi Germany.
Until October 1942, Stalin used “blocking detachments” to advance criminals, shooting defectors.