A Russian Cemetery Reveals Wagner's Prisoner Army

A Russian Cemetery Reveals Wagner’s Prisoner Army

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A man with a child’s face is seen in pictures of Kochus on social media. In some he is embracing an unknown girl. Kochus’s profile on Russia’s Facebook equivalent VKontakte now reads: “Killed in Donbass.” Kochus’ grave marker at Bakinskaya gives the date of his death as 21 July, shortly after he turned 25.th Pushing towards Bakhmut in the birthday and early days of Russia.

Kochus’ attorney, Stepan Akimov, described his former client as “really a simple person” who he said had been wrongly convicted. He was last heard from Kochas after his appeal failed, with a text message thanking Akimov for his help. Akimov learned from Reuters that his former client had joined Wagner.

Akimov said, “I can imagine, considering the length of his sentence and how short he was, this seemed like a way for him to go free.” “When a prisoner has a two-digit sentence, they are offered release in six months. Apparently, Vyacheslav thought this offer was a way out.

Reuters was unable to reach surviving relatives of Kochus.

Russia has the world’s largest prison population per capita. Mark Galeotti, author of The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia, a book on Russia’s criminal and prison cultures, says that Wagner’s potential appeal to prisoners is much broader than a bid for clemency. Service with Wagner, he said, provides a sense of pride and purpose to convicts with few prospects after release, adding that for those who have spent time in prison culture has “a very strong Russian nationalist color”.

“Yeah, it gives you a chance to get out of jail, but it also gives you a chance to really become something,” Galeotti said. “It’s a way in which Wagner can really appeal to people who are decidedly, or consider themselves, marginalized, outsiders, losers in the system in some way, and they need to make themselves winners.” Gives you a chance to think about it.”

At least one person buried at Bakinskaya hid his criminal record and prison time from loved ones.

For more than half a decade after getting married and leaving her hometown of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, Svitlana Holik believed her brother, Yuri Daniluk, was operating somewhere in Russia’s far north. He said the two Ukraine-born siblings had few living relatives and had rarely spoken since the Russian-backed proxies took over their home town in 2014. Svitlana knew only that her brother regularly traveled for work to the Russian border city of Bryansk, 500 miles (800 km) away.

But while Svitlana was building a new life in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, Yuriy was using social media to subscribe to pro-Russian groups supporting the Donbass separatist insurgency, her online activity shows. In 2016, after being out of touch for a year and a half, Yuri told his sister that he had moved to the Arctic north of Russia. She said that his messages were short, and that he said little about his life.

“I suspected then that something had happened, that he might have had some trouble that he didn’t want to or for some reason couldn’t talk about,” she told Reuters, speaking Ukrainian, in a telephone call from Dnipro. The city is now a major logistics center for the Ukrainian military fighting in Donbass, and a frequent target of Russian missiles.

A close friend of Yuri Daniluk spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. The friend said that Yuri lied to his sister, whom he loved very much, so that she would not be upset by the news of his imprisonment. In fact, he was sentenced to nine years and eight months in prison in 2016 on drugs charges. Two people were held together in the penal colony of the Krasnodar Territory no. 6.

The friend said he last spoke to Urie in September 2022 and had heard from other inmates later that month that Urie had joined Wagner. Olga Romanova, a prisoner-rights activist with the Russia Behind Bars watchdog group, told Reuters that Yevgeny Prigozhin had visited penal colony no. 6 for recruiting prisoners on two separate occasions. Reuters could not independently verify these visits.

The friend said that during his time in prison, Yuri fell in with a clique of inmates who refuse to cooperate with prison officials in principle – a common occurrence in Russia’s penitentiary system. This meant that Yuri lost his chance for early release for good behavior. He added that Yuri’s decision to join Wagner was motivated by the knowledge that he would likely serve his long sentence in full.

According to his grave, Yuri Daniluk died on November 30, 2022. He was 28 years old.

Daniluk’s sister, Svitlana, said she knew nothing about her brother’s prison sentence, service with Wagner, and eventual death during Russia’s war against the country of his birth until contacted by Reuters reporters. knew it. Holik said: “The fact that Yuri died, I learned from you. I reread your message several times when you wrote to me. Somehow I did not believe it.

The prisoner’s friend remembered Yuri as a fierce patriot of his native Donbass, with a passion for cars. The friend said, “I blame it all on him not wanting to cooperate with the prison authorities.” “If he had agreed, he would have lived. But he refused, therefore he is a fool.

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