A convicted murderer who was released from prison in Russia to join Wagner’s private military company and fight in Ukraine has been arrested days after returning home on suspicion of killing an elderly woman.
Ivan Rossomakhin was already a repeat offender when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder in 2020. He was released last year after pledging to fight for Wagner.
Wagner’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, recruited heavily from Russian prisons, with inmates such as Rossomakhin promising pardons and other benefits in return for a contract.
Rossomakhin had an indefinite stint with Wagner in Ukraine – the normal contract is for six months – before returning to his hometown of Novyj Burets in the Kirov region this month.
Almost immediately, according to local accounts, there were problems. He was taken into custody for five days after uttering several threats.
His presence led to a public meeting on Monday, which was filmed by a local television station.
A resident, Galina Sapozhnikova, said Rossomakhin was seen holding a pitchfork, an ax and a knife, threatening to kill everyone.
District police chief Vadim Varankin told the meeting that Rossomakhin was a “known troublemaker” and was being treated.
But before that happens, an elderly woman in town has been murdered. Rossomakhin was arrested on suspicion of committing the crime, but was not formally charged.
Prigozhin himself commented on the case, saying his company is willing to help law enforcement regarding one of his veterans.
“If a person is aggressive or provocative or there is a risk, especially if he is in the ex-convict category, you must let us know. We will send our recruitment group, retrieve him carefully and send him back to the front, where he will have to eliminate his aggression,” he said.
Prigozhin said he would not recruit any more convicts in February. However, it appears that the prison recruitment drive continued under the Russian Defense Ministry. CNN spoke to several fighters who said they were directly employed by the department.
Wagner is known for his ruthless tactics and his disregard for the lives of his own soldiers.
The private army was founded in 2014 and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
A former Wagner mercenary who fled to Norway spoke to CNN about the brutality he witnessed among Wagner fighters in Ukraine.
“They rounded up those who didn’t want to fight and shot them in front of the new arrivals,” he alleged. “They brought two prisoners who refused to go to fight and they shot them in front of everyone and buried them directly in the trenches dug by the trainees.”
Wagner played a key role in the Ukrainian War and raised the profile of the shadowy elder Prigozhin.
Wagner’s fighters were heavily involved in the capture of Soledar in eastern Ukraine in January, the first Russian military gains in months.
But there were also tensions between Wagner and the Russian Defense Ministry, which had released competing claims about their role in the fight.
Prigozhin was openly critical of Russia’s military leadership, even going so far as to blame the deaths of his fighters on officials’ failure to obtain enough ammunition.