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. 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.
"During an interview with the prisoners, we determined they had been forced to fight in illegal formations of the so-called separatist republics", "Sam", Ukraine's secret service agent, told to UA Today TV.
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, Ukrainian ATO fighters repeatedly reported.
More often than not, prisoners with a life-term sentence were asked to fight. These prisoners have nothing to lose.
The number of prisoners amongst the militants appears not to be a secret for the Ukrainian intelligence. According to "Sam", about 30 percent may be involved.