More than 20 months after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has defended its controversial practice of releasing convicted criminals to take part in the “special military operation” – as Moscow calls it.

“They pay for their crimes with their blood on the battlefields,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today, according to the Interfax news agency.

Usually granting a pardon in Russia is a time-consuming process in which a prisoner’s application is considered in several stages. However, Peskov noted that there is an alternative: “to pay their debt with blood.”

Recently it became known that Russian President Vladimir Putin granted a pardon to a murderer. Vladislav Kanius from the city of Kemerovo was sentenced in 2020 to 17 years in prison for the murder of his ex-partner. He was released from prison because he expressed his desire to fight in Ukraine.

During the first months of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was widely known that the mercenary company Wagner had massively recruited criminals serving prison sentences. A few months ago, however, the recruitment of convicts was legalized in Russia, for the formation of special units deployed on the battlefields in Ukraine.