12/12/2022, 09.35
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With war in Ukraine, crime is rampant in Russian cities

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Convicts are released to fight on Ukrainian soil. Many desert to return to crime. The role of the Wagner mercenary agency. Military weapons used for criminal acts in Russia. The danger of a new war between organised crime cartels.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A side effect of the Russian war on Ukraine, for which prisoners taken from prisons and camps are also being recruited and mobilised, is the spread of crime in the country.  Convicts who are now free and 'pardoned' are not only falling upon the Ukrainian enemy, with heinous massacres left on the battlefield, but are increasingly taking control of social spaces in Russia.

In the Rostov region, a man was arrested on suspicion of attacking the security forces on 6 December in the city of Novošakhtinsk. According to the prosecutor's office, a camouflaged bandit armed with a Kalashnikov rifle opened fire on a police patrol, wounding an officer. The city authorities activated a general control plan called 'Siren', closing kindergartens and schools and setting up roadblocks in the city streets. Residents were also asked not to leave their homes.

The man is still at large, but has been identified as 38-year-old defector Pavel Nikulin, according to the Telegram channel 'Baza', who was due to serve several more years in the Ufa prison in Bashkortostan, where he had been conscripted into the Wagner company of mercenaries to go to Ukraine. The press office of Evgenij Prigožin, the founder and head of Wagner, announced that it had opened an internal investigation to verify Nikulin's participation in the terrorist act.

The fact is that in the past two months alone, recruiters have taken 23,000 inmates from camps and prisons and sent them to the front, and many of them are out of control. In the whole of 2022, the volume of crimes has increased by more than 30%, with extensive use of weapons and explosives supplied by the military, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior. The territories most affected by the phenomenon are those close to the Ukrainian border such as Rostov, along with the Kursk and Belgorod regions.

The jurist Aleksej Fedjarov commented on this situation to the microphones of Currentime.tv, recalling that 'weapons are stupid, when you pull the trigger they shoot; already during the Chechen war, the security forces were very careful not to disperse armaments among the population, but now the war is taking place over a very large and uncontrollable territory, and so a lot of its personnel is lost in the mists'. It is assumed that a considerable number of weapons are then resold on the black market, and it is not just soldiers who return from a period of fighting holding their weapons illegally, but professional groups, arms trafficking cartels, 'for whom this war is a real wedding feast'.

Prigožin spreads propaganda messages in favour of Wagner, ensuring that strict rules against 'prostupki', transgressions such as desertion and looting, are observed in his ranks. He himself goes to prisons to recruit soldiers for the company 'making it clear what responsibility they are taking', as he often repeats in his public statements, meaning that 'someone will pay' in the language of the prisoners, and that they will in any case have a chance to escape conviction and resume their life as criminals.

As Fedjarov reiterates, "it is unthinkable that out of one hundred 'zeki' [prisoners], five to ten will not be found trying to escape... if you collect this kind of audience, we should not be surprised if weapons then pop up here and there in acts of thuggery, and if they did not keep their weapons, it could be even worse, because they would have to get them. The police are unable to control this situation, neither those engaged in organised crime nor the counter-terrorism sections, because it is a network that escapes both definitions, derived from military operations.

The government had officially dismantled old-style organised crime at the time of Medvedev's presidency (2008-2012), when Putin was prime minister, and then dismantled many of the structures of the fight against mafias. Now, however, says Fedjarov, 'there will be new divisions of criminal power, and whoever wins will control the situation throughout the country for the next few years'.

Even among the oligarchs, a partition is taking place in the financial and business sector, but 'the bandits and mafiosi will not just stage a few suicides of bigwigs on the losing side: there will be a lot of blood of Russians, with the weapons given to fight the Ukrainians'.

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