Russian Prison Population Drops Amid Ukraine Conflict

In 2022-2023, Russia saw a significant reduction of 58,000 inmates in its prisons, continuing a trend influenced by convict recruitment for the Ukraine war. Overall, 105,000 prisoners were released, and regional authorities plan to close several prisons amid the declining inmate numbers.

Reuters | London | Updated: 24-05-2024 13:56 IST | Created: 24-05-2024 13:56 IST
Russian Prison Population Drops Amid Ukraine Conflict
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The number of people held in Russian prisons dropped by 58,000 last year, Russian independent media reported on Friday, continuing a steady fall spurred in part by the recruitment of convicts to fight in Ukraine. In total, some 105,000 prisoners were released between 2022-2023, media reported, citing data published in the official journal of Russia's prison service.

Russia has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world and a vast network of prisons and labour camps stretching across its 11 time zones. Russia has recruited prisoners to fight in Ukraine since 2022, when Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late head of the Wagner mercenary group, began touring penal colonies, offering prisoners a pardon if they survived six months at the front.

Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last year two months after leading a short-lived mutiny against Russia's military leaders, said he had recruited 50,000 prisoners for Wagner. Russia's Defence Ministry has since continued recruiting convicts from prisons for its own Storm-Z formations.

Regional authorities in Siberia have said they plan to close several prisons this year amid a decline in inmate numbers driven by the recruitment of convicts for the war. The latest drop in the prison population is part of a longer-term downward trend. Since 2009, the number of convicts has decreased threefold, from about 730,000 to roughly 250,000, according to calculations by independent media, as Russia has softened penalties for some financial crimes. (Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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