Murder rate among Russian soldiers returning from Ukraine surges

A total of 113 active Russian servicemen were convicted in 2023 amid rise in ‘chronic mental health’ issues for military personnel

Alexander Butler
Sunday 28 April 2024 20:35 BST
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The number of Russian soldiers committing murder after returning home from the frontline has soared over the past two years amid “chronic mental health” issues linked to serving on the battlefield.

Data from Moscow’s judicial department showed that 113 active servicemen were convicted in 2023 – representing a nearly 900 per cent increase on just 13 convictions in 2022.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the high number of homicides was in part due to the release of thousands of ex-convicts pardoned for their participation in the war as well as post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from the frontline.

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The MoD said: “The high numbers of homicides by serving and veteran Russian soldiers are likely in part due to enduring war-related chronic poor mental health issues.

“These include post-traumatic stress disorder, and battlefield desensitisation to violence. Alcoholism and drug use from low morale and boredom are likely contributing factors.

“Compounding this is the return into the general population of ex-convicts with a pre-existing propensity for criminality and extreme violence.”

It comes as NGO Russia Behind Bars said 15,000 prisoners pardoned for their participation in the war against Ukraine had returned home from the frontline.

Up to 190 criminal cases were opened against former convicts in 2023, including 20 cases of murder or attempted murder in 2023, it said.

In one case, an ex-Wagner prisoner was sentenced to 22 years for murdering and raping an elderly woman following his pardon.

When the mass recruitment of Russian prisoners started in the summer of 2022 it was led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, once the head of the Wagner private military group.

Prisoners – who serve in the Storm-Z unit – were offered a clean record, full pardon and allowed to go home after six months on the battlefield.

Prigozhin said that almost 50,000 Russian prisoners had been dispatched to the front line under this deal just before he died in a plane crash in August.

Thousands of convicts died, but others, including dozens convicted of violent crimes, returned to Russia.

The Russian military took over the scheme in February 2023 and clamped down on the practice, removing the right to a pardon and ensuring prisoners fought to the end of the war.

According to the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine, Russia has already lost 465,000 soldiers and thousands of pieces of equipment.

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