Russian president awards medals to convicts fighting in Ukraine

Putin’s Inglorious Bas***ds: Russian president awards first bravery medals to conscripted convicts pardoned for their violent crimes after serving six months in Ukraine

  • Hayk Gasparyan, a convicted armed robber, served months of a seven-year term
  • He was awarded the Order of Courage personally by Vladimir Putin this week
  • Gasparyan is just one of tens of thousands of violent prisoners released to fight on the frontlines in Ukraine 

Vladimir Putin has begun handing out medals to reward violent convicts who were recruited from Russian prisons for their ‘courage’ fighting in Ukraine. 

Hayk Gasparyan, a convicted armed robber, was freed from his maximum security jail to serve in pro-Kremlin forces illegally invading their neighbours in a scheme reminiscent of the 1978 WWII film Inglorious Bas***ds.

The Armenian MMA fighter, 31, had only served a few months of a seven-year sentence in a lockup in Ryazan, south-east of Moscow, for armed robbery but he is now officially a free man after being pardoned by Putin for completing six months of service at the front.

Gasparyan was just one of a group of criminals honoured by the Russian president at a ceremony in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia located just 50 miles from the Ukrainian border.

Putin is pictured meeting fighters in Rostov-On-Don, some of whom are criminals released from prison to go and serve on the frontlines. Gasparyan is circled

Gasparyan is pictured receiving his Order of Courage from the Russian president

Gasparyan served with the infamous Wagner group, a band of Russian mercenaries set up by one of Putin’s cronies which has embarked upon a mass recruitment drive among Russian prisons. 

‘I serve Russia and Wagner,’ he told Putin, who awarded him an Order of Courage for battlefield bravery.

The armed robber was convicted one year ago of stealing £3,500 at gunpoint from a man outside a Moscow bank.

In the coming weeks thousands of murderers, rapists and robbers are likely to receive similar pardons from Putin.

Wagner was founded by Putin’s ‘chef’ Yevgeny Prigozhin, himself a former convict who once organised major Kremlin banquets for the Russian president, in 2014.

Since then Prigozhin has developed a fearsome army to aid Putin’s struggling soldiers in the fight against Ukraine by scooping up an estimated 40,000 violent prisoners, promising them a full pardon from their sentences if they can survive six months on the frontline. 

Prigozhin’s utilisation of hardened prisoners to conduct major wartime operations in Ukraine harks back to the 1978 film Inglorious Bast***ds, one of the inspirations behind Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed 2009 flick Inglorious Basterds. 

Wagner was founded by Putin’s ‘chef’ Yevgeny Prigozhin, himself a former convict who has conducted a mass recruitment drive in Russian prisons to bolster Russia’s war effort in Ukraine

Putin’s chef Yevgeny Prigozhin is filmed recruiting inmates in one of Russian colonies in October 2022

In the film, a band of degenerate American soldiers who are court-martialed for committing a series of crimes including robbery, mutiny and murder, go on to launch a daring mission to steal some of Germany’s most precious military hardware – a V2 rocket – and return it to Allied powers.

The concept of releasing hardened criminals from their cells to go to war is by no means novel. 

During the Second World War, Hitler’s feared paramilitary group, the SS, created a division made up almost exclusively of violent convicts, mental patients and disgraced soldiers from other units.

The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division – better known simply as the Dirlewanger Brigade – ranks among the worst of an already deplorable bunch of units that constituted the SS. 

The Dirlewanger brigade was formed in 1940 and named after its commanding officer, Oskar Dirlewanger, who fought in WWI and by all accounts was a drug-addicted sex offender with a penchant for violence and brutality who bounced in and out of prison.

Nazi Lieutenant General Gottlob Berger – a close comrade of Holocaust architect Heinrich Himmler – managed to get him out of jail and after Dirlewanger impressed by fighting on the side of General Francisco Franco in the Spanish civil war, he was welcomed back into the Nazi fold and handed an SS unit to command as a reward.

Nazi troops thought to be members of the Dirlewanger brigade are pictured in Poland in 1944 en route to quell the Warsaw uprising


The mercenaries of Yevgeny Prigozhin (left), a close Putin ally and financier of the Wagner Group, have committed heinous war crimes on populations on several continents. Their methods bare a striking similarity to those of the Dirlewanger brigade, an infamous SS unit commanded by Oskar Dirlewanger (right)

At its inception, Dirlewanger’s brigade was nothing more than a small rag-tag group of criminals – mostly poachers renowned for their hunting skills – who were deployed primarily to help round up Jews and root out resistance fighters.

Many SS commanders strongly disliked the convicted rapist and his group of degenerates, but they proved effective in their work and as the war raged on and the demand for manpower increased, Dirlewanger was given carte blanche to expand his ranks.

Life expectancy in the brigade was not high. They were afforded little equipment, were sent into very hostile conditions, and it was common for fellow ‘wangers to kill each other over minor disagreements.

Nevertheless, over the course of the war the brigade grew from a group of a few dozen poachers to a thousands-strong battalion comprised of savages scraped from the bottom of the barrel.

As their reputation for brutality grew, the brigade switched from pursuing Jews and manning concentration camps and transformed into a unit of pure exterminators. 

They were sent into occupied countries to quell civilian uprisings and terrorise local populations by massacring huge quantities of people in the most savage and brutal ways imaginable. 

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