Convicts including murderers sent to fight for Russia in Ukraine have been officially pardoned of their crimes after being badly wounded on the frontlines.
Stanislav Bogdanov, 35, who was a decade into a 23-year sentence for killing a magistrate when he agreed to go fight for the Wagner mercenary group, was filmed receiving his pardon after losing his right leg from the knee down.
He was pardoned alongside Andrey Arteev, 35, a robber who also lost his leg, and Rustam Borovkov, 31, a hijacker who lost his right arm.
Meanwhile Russia confirmed five mobilised soldiers have been killed in Ukraine, the first known to have died after Putin began drafting men three weeks ago.
Stanislav Bogdanov, 35 (circled left) is a convicted murderer who went to fight for Wagner in Ukraine and had his leg blown off, meaning he has been pardoned and can go free
The soldiers, who were not named, came from the city of Chelyabinsk near the border with Kazakhstan, local outlet 74.ru reported.
‘Unfortunately, the military commissariat confirmed the information about the death of five South Uralsmen,’ the local governor’s office said.
Meanwhile, Russian state media also published footage of four soldiers receiving pardons after being wounded.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man dubbed Putin’s chef because he provides catering to the Kremlin, has been offering prison inmates clemency in return for six months fighting with his Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine.
He has been filmed in prisons warning men that the only way out of his private army is to retire or in a coffin.
Bogdanov was one of those who signed up, having been convicted of beating magistrate Sergey Zhiganov to death in the city of Veliky Novgorod ten years ago while trying to steal bank cards.
Bogdanov (circled right) is pictured alongside Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin (centre) and his fellow pardoned combatants
Also pardoned were Andrey Arteev, 35 (front left), a robber who also lost his leg, and Rustam Borovkov, 31 (back right), a hijacker who lost his right arm.
He explained how he and his comrades had come under fire from a Ukrainian tank while trying to hold a position.
One of his fellow soldiers was shot by the tank, and the second shot mangled his leg, leaving him bleeding to death.
But other soldiers came to save him, he explained: ‘Thanks to the guys who pulled me out and didn’t leave me. They risked their lives to save mine. I am very grateful.
Explaining why he went to war, Bogdanov added: ‘I wanted to try and change my life. This only happens once in a lifetime.
‘Maybe I was created for something else, and not just to serve a sentence and spend the rest of my life there. The training was really hard.’
Another convict Andrey Arteev, 35, had been imprisoned for theft, robbery and extortion, and was near the start of a five year sentence.
He denied being ‘cannon fodder’ at the front but admitted he was wounded by an exploding mine.
‘My leg was torn off,’ he said. ‘I survived, that’s the most important thing.
Stanislav Bogdanov (left) and Vladimir Gutman (right) agreed to exchange their prison sentences in return for six months on the frontlines in Ukraine
‘I am so grateful to those guys who reacted quickly, applied a tourniquet, gave me an anaesthetic injection and got me out.’
He, like Bogdanov, said he would have stayed with the Wagner group if not for his injury. ‘I found a family,’ he said.
An unseen official in a video from Prigozhin’s Ria Fan media outlet hands out pardons and military awards to the convicts.
‘You have earned this pardon with your blood and sweat – and your heroism,’ he said.
Pardoned, too, was Rustam Borovkov, 31, serving 13 years for robbery and hijacking, who lost his right arm.
All prisoners recruited as fighters who survive six months will be pardoned under the Putin scheme.