The deal is very clear: tens of thousands of prisoners are recruited by Wagner to fight for six months in Ukraine in exchange for a reduced sentence. And if they survive, they are allowed to return to normal life, without serving the rest of their sentence. An agreement that makes Russian women tremble because they are among those who have been freed many who have committed murder and violence against women. Since the Moscow authorities are not particularly strict with these types of crimes, even in cases where the perpetrators have received prison sentences, the victims and their families live in fear of seeing the perpetrators return home earlier than expected.
The Guardian reports the fear of many women by recounting, complete with photos, the 2020 murder of Vera Pekhteleva. A murder so gruesome that even in a country like Russia, where violence against women often goes unnoticed, there was great indignation. Vladislav Kanyus he spent hours torturing Pekhteleva before killing her: the trial revealed that there were 111 wounds on the victim’s body. Last summer, a court in Siberia sentenced him to 17 years in prison. But in mid-May, Pekhteleva’s mother received two photographs from an anonymous WhatsApp account. They showed a man in military uniform and were accompanied by a message: “Kanyus is free and fighting in Ukraine.” When the Pekhtelevs made an official request to the prison authorities to locate Kanyus, they were told that he had been transferred to the Rostov Region Prison Service and had disappeared. According to activists this is the ruse being used for prisoners recruited to fight.
Kanyus’ case is not the only one. Vyacheslav Samoilov, of a small town in northern Russia, killed Olga Shlyamina, 33 years old, in March 2021 and later dismembered and hid the body. He was jailed for 9 years and seven months in April 2022 but is now free after fighting for three months in Ukraine. Those recruited also include those convicted of rape and other abuses, whose victims are still alive and are now at risk again. “We have received many messages from frightened people. They know that if the men who tormented them come back from this war and start beating or even killing them again, the police won’t do anything, because now these men are seen as heroes instead of rapists or murderers,” says Alena Popova, an activist Russia for women’s rights.