Russia Putting Families of Killed Soldiers Under Surveillance, Ukraine Says

Russia is surveilling the families of soldiers killed while fighting Vladimir Putin's war, incase they voice public opposition to the ongoing conflict, according to Ukrainian military intelligence.

In a report published on Sunday, Ukraine's military intelligence directorate said Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) for the western Kostroma region put in a request to monitor certain individuals who may be "prone to committing crimes" under stringent new laws that crack down on dissent.

The FSB, Kremlin's principal security agency, asked the head of the Vohomsk municipal district to provide background information on persons who may violate laws on "public dissemination of false information and actions to discredit the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and their participation in aggression against Ukraine," according to the report by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.

People walk in front of a building
People walk in front of a building adorned with the letter "Z" formed by a Russia's patriotic black and orange Saint George's ribbon, which has become a symbol of support for Russian military action in Ukraine, in St. Petersburg on April 4, 2022. OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

Russia's parliament in March passed legislation imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading "fake" news about Russia's army. The Kremlin has used the law to crack down on those who veer from Putin's narrative of the war.

"When collecting such information, special attention is paid to close relatives of servicemen who died on the territory of Ukraine or participated in the war," Ukraine's military intelligence directorate said.

On Friday, Moscow municipal deputy Alexei Gorinov became the first person to receive a long-term sentence under the new laws. The 60-year-old was sentenced by a court in Russia's capital to seven years in a penal colony for criticizing what Putin calls a "special military operation." He was also banned from holding public office for four years after his release.

And in June, Russian politician and former candidate for the State Duma Mikhail Lobanov was detained for 15 days for "discrediting" the country's military on his social media networks. He was ordered to pay a fine of 40,000 rubles ($637).

The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense also noted in its report on Sunday that Russia has intensified recruitment for private military companies due to "significant losses" in the war.

A Russian serviceman stands guard in Mariupol
A Russian serviceman stands guard at the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol on May 18, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

Newsweek previously reported that Russian prisoners in St. Petersburg are being offered freedom and money if they participate in the war.

According to independent investigative Russian language outlet iStories, relatives of prisoners serving sentences in the city said that the notorious Russian mercenary Wagner Group is offering to pay 200 thousand rubles ($3,446), and an amnesty, for six months of "voluntary" service in the Donbas region—if the prisoners return alive.

Convicts serving sentences in IK-7 "Yablonevka" and IK-6 "Obukhovo" in St. Petersburg were also reportedly offered a five million rubles ($85,873) compensation for their families in the event of death.

A relative of a convict told the news outlet that prisoners were asked to "defend the Motherland."

Newsweek is still trying to verify these events and claims.

Sunday's report similarly says that Russian prisoners, after signing and fulfilling contracts with Wagner, are promised a full amnesty. It notes that recruitment is taking place near the Molkino village of the Krasnodar territory, and in prisons in Rostov, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

"The article under which a specific person was convicted is not important. Even if it is murder or other serious crimes. Everyone is promised full amnesty after six months of 'service,'" the report by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense said.

Russia is recruiting as many as 10,000 to be deployed to Ukraine's Donbas region, where the conflict is currently focused, the report said.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Foreign Ministry for comment.