The head of the Russian private military Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Sunday that about 32,000 men who recruited from Russian prisons to perform military service in Ukraine have returned to their country.

He said they had fulfilled their contracts and had been deployed to combat operations.

Women and human rights activists have expressed concern that many criminals, including murderers and other violent offenders, have been pardoned and reintegrated into Russian society prematurely.

In some cases, the convicted criminals have already committed new murders.

However, the head of Wagner considers that military service is a major social rehabilitation program.

In an audio message posted on his Telegram channel, Prigozhin said that those released had committed only 83 crimes in total.

This is 80 times less than the crimes that usually committed by those released periodically after serving their sentences.

Prigozhin, a close friend of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, recruited some of the prisoners himself into prison camps.

Putin issued an amnesty to those who signed a contract to fight in the war, provided they completed at least six months of combat operations in Ukraine.

Last March, Prigozhin said that the number of former prisoners released from Wagner’s ranks reached 5,000.

After capturing Bakhmut, Prigozhin said he lost 20,000 of his fighters there, including 10,000 former prisoners.

In some cases, he worked to ensure that criminals received military honors at burial.

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