This is how the military observer “ChrisO”, who regularly reports on current developments in the Ukraine war, describes the soldiers. These are said to be men who are recruited from prisons. What is initially reminiscent of the Wagner mercenaries, however, has a catch here: According to this, the “ghost soldiers” are to be flown to the Ukraine under duress. They are therefore given contracts and are then supposed to fight in Ukraine.
The We Can Explain network reports on the case of young Ilya, who was in a Russian prison. From there he was sent to Ukraine as part of a Russian prisoner unit. And then he disappeared. Until he suddenly called from a borrowed cell phone in mid-April and said he had been taken to a military airfield as part of a group of 76 soldiers. There he got a contract from the Ministry of Defense for six months. He then served his three-year prison sentence.
Ghost Soldier’s Mother: “The Department of Defense Won’t Tell Us”
But about three weeks later the contact broke off again, Ilya’s last message to his mother was “Mom, we are fighting.” As a fallen soldier, he did not appear on any list, another soldier only reported that he had been killed.
His mother tried to find out more about it, the report said. But: “The Ministry of Defense doesn’t want to tell us anything. In reality, he is an escaped convict. An absolute ‘ghost’.” Even Ilya’s ID card, which he had sent home to his mother, didn’t help. His ID number does not exist, such IDs are not issued at all, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Russia erases all information on convict soldiers
The procedure apparently has a system. A great secret is made of the convict soldiers. The Russian news portal “Verstka” reports that all information about soldiers who were recruited as convicts would be sealed. The identities would be erased from official documents and their criminal records destroyed.
Such cases are not uncommon, says Olga Romanova from the group “Russia Behind Bars”, which campaigns for the rights of prisoners. “There are many cases where a body is not found and nobody is looking for it.”
And further: “They cannot identify the corpse based on their ID and tell the relatives that there is no such ID.”