November 13, 2023

He Was Sentenced to 17 Years. Now He Is Free.


He Was Sentenced to 17 Years. Now He Is Free.
Members of the Wagner group training Belarusian troops. Belarusian Telegraph Agency, Wikimedia Commons

Three years ago, Vyacheslav Kanyus murdered 23-year-old student Vera Pekhteleva and was supposed to serve a 17-year sentence in a maximum security colony. However, he did not spend even six months there.

According to a recent statement from the Russian Prosecutor's Office, Russian President Vladimir Putin instead pardoned Kanyus for his participation in the war with Ukraine back in April 2023.

In June, reports surfaced suggesting that Kanyus had been released and was actively participating in the Russian war in Ukraine as part of a mercenary group. The suspicion arose from photographs on social media depicting Kanyus posing with weapons, which the victim’s parents noticed. It's not clear if he joined the famous Wagner group, controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, or the Storm Z unit, controlled by the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The parents of the murdered student sought information from authorities, prompting an official response from the Kemerovo Regional Court, declaring information about Kanyus's whereabouts a state secret.

In September, human rights activist Alena Popova reported that Kanyus had returned from the front and was at large. On social media, a photo of Kanyus apparently relaxing with friends appeared, but his current location is unknown.

Vyacheslav Kanyus gained notoriety after the brutal murder of Vera Pekhteleva in January 2020. Pekhteleva had gone to Kanyus's apartment in Kemerovo to collect her belongings after ending their relationship. Despite multiple calls to the police reporting cries for help, no assistance arrived. When the apartment was finally opened, Pekhteleva was found dead with over 100 injuries, as determined by forensic experts.

Commenting on Kanyus's release, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's press secretary, stated that individuals with serious charges could find redemption through service on the battlefield. Pekhteleva's mother expressed dismay, noting the potential dangers of releasing prisoners who may continue to engage in criminal activities.

The case of Kanyus is not isolated, as it was revealed that Wagner offered prisoners contracts with pardons and cash incentives. President Putin confirmed signing decrees granting freedom to those agreeing to participate in the war.

Several instances have emerged where released prisoners who fought in Ukraine committed further crimes upon returning home. In September, Oleg Grechko, previously serving a sentence for murder, burned his sister alive in Zavolzhyie, near Nizhny Novgorod. Another incident occurred in Rostov-on-Don, where a former prisoner, previously convicted of murder, committed a new murder after returning from Ukraine.

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