Senior Russian prison officials who helped to enlist convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine have been targeted in the latest round of UK sanctions, the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has said.
Arkady Gostev, director of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, and Dmitry Bezrukikh, head of the Federal Punishment Service of the Rostov region, are among 22 officials to be made the subject of asset freezes and travel bans.
The FCDO said the two men are reported to have worked closely with Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the notorious Wagner Group of mercenaries, which has been linked with some of the worst atrocities in the conflict, to fill its ranks with inmates from Russia’s jails.
Prisoners – including murderers and sex offenders – were offered pardons from President Vladimir Putin if they agreed to sign up to fight in Ukraine.
Sanctions have also been imposed on officials associated with the partial mobilisation of Russian reservists, including deputy prime minister Denis Valentinovich Manturov, who is responsible for equipping the troops.
Ella Pamfilova, chairwoman of the Central Election Commission, and Andrey Burov, head of the regional election commission in Rostov, who are said to have been responsible for organising a series of “sham” referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine, have also been targeted.
Announcing the sanctions, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The Russian regime’s decision to partially mobilise Russian citizens was a desperate attempt to overwhelm the valiant Ukrainians defending their territory. It has failed.
“Today we have sanctioned individuals who have enforced this conscription, sending thousands of Russian citizens to fight in Putin’s illegal and abhorrent war.
“The UK will continue to use both sanctions and military aid to support Ukraine in the defence of their independence.”