Russian prisoners are “infecting themselves with HIV” to avoid being recruited and sent to fight in Ukraine, it has been claimed.
The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is believed to be ramping up the mobilisation of convicts after the Wagner Group ended its campaign in Ukraine.
But many are trying to escape the conscription by adopting extreme means, one Ukraine-backing Twitter account has claimed.
Ukrainian-born Igor Sushko claimed: “Russian prisoners are infecting themselves with HIV in an attempt to evade forced mobilisation and certain death in Ukraine.”
Current MoD’s rules see the exemption of only a handful of people from conscription – including people testing positive for HIV and terrorists.
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Mr Sushko’s claim comes a few months after a report claiming many young free Russians who didn’t have the mean to escape their country were seeking forged documents claiming an HIV+ status.
In the wake of the second wave of Russian mass mobilisation in autumn 2022, about 650 adverts offering bogus documents popped up on the messaging platform Telegram between October 1 and 6 alone, Novaya Gazeta reported.
The price of the fake documentation ranged between £165 to £757.
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But, the publication warned, these certificates may not offer an iron-clad guarantee against being sent to the battle zone, as human rights group Pavel Chikov of Agora claimed some people infected with HIV had still been deployed.
Russia is one of the countries faring worst in the world for the number of HIV/AIDS cases.
Data platform Statista shared findings from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) stating that 1.5 million new HIV cases were reported in 2021 alone in Russia – claims dismissed as “provocative propaganda” by the Russian health ministry.
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The report the Russian MoD is recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine was shared in late July in an intelligence update by the British Ministry of Defence.
The report claimed the Russian MoD had “taken over Wagner [Group]’s prison recruitment pipeline”.
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin signed up some 40,000 convicts from Russian prisons between the beginning of the war in Ukraine and February, when the warlord announced the programme was ending.
These prisoners were offered amnesty for their crimes in exchange for months of service on the frontline. Wagner Group lost some 20,000 men in the months-long battle for Bakhmut.
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