In one of the cemeteries in St. Petersburg, five fresh graves appeared on one day. Away from the rest, all the same, with wooden crosses, black plates with golden names and dates of birth and death. The tombs are distinguished by the abundance of fresh flowers and wreaths, some of them in the colors of the Russian flag.
Five men were buried here. Sergey Shalunov was killed in Ukraine on June 17, and Alexander Gerasimov died on August 14. On the next grave, you can only see a photo of a young man in an officer’s uniform with the lieutenant’s epaulets.
“Almost free.” Russians from prison straight to the grave
Aleksandr Romanowski and Edward Anisimow are buried in the next two graves. Until recently, both of them were serving sentences in Russian prisons. Romanowski was convicted of murder with robbery, he came from Czudów in the Novgorod region. Anisimov was serving his sentence in a St. Petersburg prison, reports Radio Free Europe.
Romanowski’s grave was recently visited by Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as “Vladimir Putin’s cook”. He is responsible for financing the Wagner group, a private military army that sends people to fight in Ukraine. – I laid flowers on the grave of a man who was recently convicted and died on August 1, defending the interests of our homeland against the enemy – Prigozhin said in a press release from his company Konkord.
Radio Free Europe spoke to relatives of people imprisoned in prisons near Saint Petersburg. Representatives of Wagner’s group were to appear in prisons and persuade all men to volunteer to get involved in the war in Ukraine. In return, they were promised 200,000. rubles ($ 3.3 thousand) and freedom if they survive on the front for six months.
The first group of 40 men was led out of Jabłonewka on the night of July 6. Already on July 25, the death of three people from this group was confirmed.
On September 18, six members of the Human Rights Council appealed to the Prosecutor General, Igor Krasnov, for explanationson what basis prisoners are sent to Ukraine to participate in a “special military operation”, as Putin’s propaganda calls the war in the East.
Human rights defenders in Russia argue that a prisoner who has not served his full sentence can only be released on the basis of presidential pardon, an amnesty or a court order issued by the State Duma on parole.
Anisimov’s friends confirmed to Radio Free Europe that he was in prison and was sent to fight in Ukraine by a private company. One of his relatives was to find out about it during a telephone conversation he had before the Russian left for the front.
He said people came and promised him mountains of gold. They told him that he would be able to get out of prison in six months. They also promised financial assistance. He agreed because he had previously served in the army – said a close friend of Anisimov.
The motivation of convicted Russians to fight in Ukraine is even greaterthat the conditions in the prisons there are terrible.-
Anisimov was born and raised in Siberia, but lived in Saint Petersburg for a long time. For several years he worked as a driver in a German company. He was detained in November 2018 on suspicion of selling large amounts of drugs. He pleaded guilty and during questioning directly stated that he had met “people involved in drug trafficking”. It was they who made it possible for him to sell prohibited substances. However, Anisimov did not disclose their surnames for fear of his and his relatives’ lives.
The court sentenced Anisimov to 9 years and 10 months in prison and a fine of PLN 300,000. rubles ($ 4.9 thousand). Before that, he spent almost 20 months in custody, so he had a total of just over 8 years to serve. – I am almost free – said Anisimov during a conversation with his daughter, when he was released from prison and waiting for transport to Ukraine.
Two medals after death
According to Anisimov, he would be trained for 14 days before he started his service in Ukraine. During his lifetime, the Russian tried to contact one of his relatives, but the latter “did not have time to answer the phone”. In an interview with his sister, he also claimed that he was “almost free”.
It was Anisimov’s sister who was the first to receive information about his death. He was to die near Lugansk in the eastern part of Ukraine. He was to receive two medals for the fight, although there is no mention of this on the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense. The relatives of the convicted Russian heard about the alleged decorations, but do not know any details. They also do not know if they will receive any compensation for Anisimov’s death.
Anisimov’s ex-wife refused to talk to Radio Free Europe, accusing a journalist of that station of “espionage for Ukraine”. It also forbade the “collection and dissemination” of information about her family’s personal life.
See also: Putin directly on nuclear weapons. “This attack will meet with retaliation”
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