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Russian prisoners who fought as mercenaries in Ukraine have been given their freedom

origin 1Yevgeny Prigozhin addresses Wagner’s mercenaries ©AFP

He recruited them from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine and on Thursday thanked them for their service and relieved them of military duty as heroes.

The former head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has shaken hands with a group of former prisoners who have been fighting for Russia for the past six months in exchange for their freedom.

Prigozhin told them: “You worked until the end of your contract. You worked with honor, with dignity. Among the first. Among the first yes. You fulfilled it like few others.”

Prigozhin recalled that many Wagner fighters died and called on Russian society to treat them with respect. And he had some advice for the released ones.

“Don’t drink too much,” he told them, “don’t use drugs, don’t rape women, don’t get into trouble. The police must treat you with respect.”

Known for their brutality and efficiency in other conflicts such as Syria and Mali, the Wagner mercenaries find Ukraine a tough nut to crack.

Prigozhin himself admitted this. In the fight for the city of Bakhmut, in the eastern region of Donbas, he called each house a “fortress”.