Russian soldiers were convicted of over 100 murders when they returned home last year, a report says

  • Russian military personnel convicted of murder increased by 900% in 2023, 
  • Russian military personnel were convicted of 116 murders in 2023, the Mediazona website reported.
  • About 15,000 pardoned prisoners returned to Russia, some of whom committed new crimes.

Russian military personnel were convicted of 116 murders in 2023, Mediazona, a local news website, reported.

It is almost a 900% increase from the previous year when there were 13 convictions, said the UK Ministry of Defence on X.

The data came from Judicial Department of the Supreme Court’s published statistics on the work of courts for 2023, said Mediazona.

Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and desensitization to violence, bred on the battlefield, often linger long after the conflict ends. Alcoholism and drug abuse exacerbate these problems, said the UK defense ministry last week.

“The high number of homicides by serving and veteran Russian soldiers are likely in part due to enduring war-related chronic poor mental health issues,” it wrote.

Compounding this is the return to civilian life of ex-convicts who had volunteered to serve in Ukraine and secure their freedom. They were men with a pre-existing propensity for criminality and extreme violence, said the UK defense ministry.

Citing Olga Romanova, the head of Russia Behind Bars, The New York Times reported that 15,000 pardoned prisoners had returned to Russian society after serving in penal military units, such as the Wagner Group and Storm Z. 

Members of Wagner group looks from a military vehicle in Rostov-on-Don late on June 24, 2023.

Members of Wagner group looks from a military vehicle in Rostov-on-Don late on June 24, 2023.


The New York Times report detailed cases of high-security prisoners in Russia being offered a clean slate and freedom by the Wagner mercenary group if they agree to fight in Ukraine.

An ex-Wagner prisoner-soldier was sentenced by the Kirov court on April 24, 2024, to 22 years for the crimes of murdering and raping an elderly woman post-discharge, said the UK defense ministry.

When ex-prisoner Viktor Savvinov was pardoned after serving in Ukraine earlier this year, he drunkenly murdered two people upon returning to his native village.

“It is a story about invisible violence,” said Kirill Titaev, a Russian sociologist and criminology expert at Yale, told the Times. “It is a big problem for the society, but one they do not recognize.”

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the risk of pardoned convicts re-offending upon their release “inevitable,” per the Times.

“But the negative consequences are minimal,” Putin said.

In March, it was reported that Russia has tapped on so many inmates to fuel its war effort in Ukraine that it’s closing down some prisons.

The Kremlin is now resorting to recruiting female convicts to replenish its troops.

According to recent UK estimates, about 450,000 Russian personnel have been killed or wounded, with tens of thousands more deserting their posts since the full-scale invasion commenced in February 2022.

The New York Times reported that in the fall of 2023, recruiters toured Russian prisons offering female inmates a pardon and $2,000 a month — 10 times the national minimum wage — in return for serving in frontline roles for a year.

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