Mercenary group head known as ‘Putin’s chef’ appears to be recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine

Short of soldiers and facing battlefield setbacks, Russia appears to be turning to convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine.  A private military company is recruiting

prisoners to be sent to the front lines in an effort to bolster Russian President Vladimir Putin’s faltering invasion, according to Western military analysts and a new video that

appears to show the group’s recruiting pitch.  Footage emerged this week of what appears to be Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch and the reputed financier of the

Wagner mercenaries group. He has previously denied links to the group, whose mercenaries have been fighting in Ukraine and have been deployed by the Kremlin in places such as

Syria and Sudan, analysts say. The video posted to Russian social media sites shows a man with the voice and likeness of Prigozhin addressing a large group of prisoners, all

wearing navy-colored uniforms and assembled in what appears to be a concrete yard. He tells them that their sentences would be commuted if they served in Ukraine for six months —

but that anyone who changes their mind would be shot as a deserter.  “You won’t be any different from us,” the man in the video tells the prisoners, according to a

translation for this article. “I’m taking you out alive. But don’t always return you alive.” NBC News’ social newsgathering team geolocated the video to a jail in the city

of Yoshkar-Ola, the capital of Russia’s central Mari El Republic, about 500 miles east of Moscow. It is unclear when the footage was filmed. It first surfaced this week in Russian

Telegram channels and social media accounts, and was shared by opposition activists.