Ukrainian ATO soldiers say they've witnessed prisoners serving in the enemy's army; prisoners confirm as well
On October 19, Russian-backed proxies released and transferred to Ukrainian representatives 23 prisoners from the jails under militant control. It happened three days after the Donbas warlord nicknamed Motorola was murdered.
Among those 23, 11 are the criminals who were sentenced to a life imprisonment, as Ukrainian counter-intelligence says.
"Sam", Ukraine's secret service agent: During an interview with the prisoners, we determined they had been forced to fight in illegal formations of the so-called separatist republics.
The prisoners themselves helped to identify the recruiter for this "convicts" army". Savchuk Oleksandr, so-called prosecutor for correctional facilities of the "Donetsk People's Republic" ("DPR") and previously a deputy chief of the Yenakiyevo penal colony. He became the one who assigned life-term prisoners and dangerous criminals to serve at the front from the separatist forces.
This is the first sign that militants were looking for nothing more than "cannon fodder" from inmates from local jails, the Ukrainian army witnessed in the Avdiivka industrial zone. In April 2016, Ukrainian soldiers saw people from the other side dressed in civilian clothes digging trenches. Some of them were wearing prison garb.
"Voldemar", ATO fighter: They were dressed in civilians, we saw them through our binoculars.
"Hutsul", ATO fighter: They were prisoners dressed in civilian clothing looking like they were not afraid to die.
These prisoners were caught up as hostages in the town of Shyrokyne.
"Released from where?"
"Sentenced for what?"
More often than not, prisoners with a life-term sentence were asked to fight. These prisoners have nothing to lose.
Oleksandr Mykhailov, life-term prisoner: From our colony, two were taken to the front.
11 convicts were transported from the Yenakiyevo penal colony which is located in the occupied part of Donbas. At least another 2 were used by militants as soldiers.
Oleksandr Mykhailov, life-term prisoner: Convict Strelchuk and convict Verlan.
Andriy Osovoliuk, life-term prisoner: Separatists forced them to go, they fired guns through the prison's gates.
Strelchuk who fought in militant formations against the Ukrainian army, when he returned to prison he spoke about his fighting service.
Oleksandr Mykhailov, life-term prisoner: I talked to Strelchuk. He said that when a grad missile system arrived, it was all computerized. Getting location coordinates for launching fire.
Both militant prisoners returned to the Yenakiyevo prison a year later. To be more exact, separatist forces returned them. They are not the only ones and will not be the last who exchange their freedom to kill Ukrainians.
The number of prisoners amongst the militants appears not to be a secret for the Ukrainian intelligence.
"Sam", secret-service agent: About 30 percent may be involved.
Andriy Osovoliuk, life-term prisoner: I wouldn't fight, I've killed enough people.
Now, the future of 23 prisoners, including 11 life-term convicts, is in the hands of the Ukraine's judiciary systems and Ukrainian taxpayers.