Jailed Putin critic Alexey Navalny says recruiting prisoners as mercenaries for war in Ukraine makes him question if the Russian army even exists anymore

  • Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny questioned whether Russia even has a military anymore.
  • This came in response to footage that appeared to show a mercenary group attempting to recruit prisoners.
  • Russia has suffered staggering troop losses in Ukraine. 

Imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny questioned the state of the Russian military amid the war in Ukraine as he offered his thoughts on a video that appeared to show an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin attempting to recruit prisoners. 

“As an inmate of a maximum-security prison, I too would like to give my opinion on the recruitment of criminals for the war,” Navalny said in a statement released via Twitter. “I think the first thought of any convict who saw this video was: ‘Dear God, if they are recruiting us for the war, then what is the state of the regular Russian army? Does it not exist at all anymore?'”

Though he’s behind bars, Navalny has been able to communicate with the outside world through his lawyers. That said, the Russian opposition leader has recently complained of authorities limiting access to his legal team. 

In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned in Siberia with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

After being treated in Germany for several months, Navalny returned to Moscow and was promptly arrested on charges widely decried as politically motivated. The anti-corruption campaigner has been behind bars in Russia since early 2021, and earlier this year, he had more time added to his sentence.

Navalny has been a fierce critic of Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, calling on Russians to stage mass protests against it.

The war has been disastrous for the Russian military, which has suffered staggering troop losses since Putin ordered the invasion in late February. Western intelligence has suggested that the Wagner Group, which has close ties to the Kremlin, would seek to recruit prisoners to fight in the war as Russia struggles with manpower issues.

Footage that recently surfaced appeared to show Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin ally believed to be the head of Wagner, telling Russian prisoners they would be pardoned if they fought for the mercenary group in the war. 

Many Russian prisoners are refusing this offer, a US official told reporters on Monday. “Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters,” the official said