How Russian Convicts are Recruited to Fight in Ukraine
Plus, the new Russian military cathedral
The other day I visited the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, which opened two years ago.
It’s a bizarre place where, where Russian Orthodoxy is merged with the Soviet WW2 cult. It presents a view of Russia’s history of war and conquest, made up entirely of noble victories.
It’s green like a tank.
Virgin Mary looks like Mother Russia.
There are red, hammered-and-sickled flags on the wall, which must be the first for a Christian temple.
There is a mosaic commemorating the “bloodless incorporation of Crimea in 1783” and the “bloodless reunification of Crimea in 2014.”
There are a bunch of bold artistic decisions, which my phone camera failed to capture. You can google it so see more.
The temple and the territory around it have a distinct computer game feel to them. It’s like something out Warhammer 40,000. It could be a great location for a multiplayer first-person shooter. It doesn’t feel right that it exists here in the consensus reality.
Then again, a Russian taxi driver—an NPC by her own admission—has just warned me about what this world is and is not.
I am deliberately burying the lead here, because, frankly, and shamefully, I am a little afraid to publish what follows—a translation of the speech that the owner of the Vagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin recently made in one of Russia’s prisons. He’s been touring them lately to recruit volunteers to fight in Ukraine. A recording got leaked, and I translated the transcript for you.
This speech, too, feels like it belongs in a computer game or an action movie—The Expendables or some such. “Those who come with us and then go, on their first day, ‘I think I’m in the wrong place’ get labeled as ‘deserters’ and are shot on the spot.“
Full text below.