Murder in Siberia

In the remote city of Kemerovo, nestled in the heart of southwestern Siberia, a disturbing incident shook the community and sparked national outrage. Vladislav Kanyus, a young local man, committed a heinous crime against his ex-girlfriend, Vera Pekhteleva. The brutality of the act, involving prolonged torture, suffocation, and stabbing, sent shockwaves across the country.

Kanyus (left) raped and then murdered his ex-girlfriend Vera Pekhteleva (right) by stabbing her 111 times over a three-and-a-half hour period and then finishing her off by strangling her with an iron cable. Image Credit: X

The trial that ensued was closely followed and led to Kanyus being sentenced to 17 years in prison in July 2022. This case not only highlighted the severity of the crime but also reignited discussions about Russia’s approach to domestic violence and the perceived indifference of law enforcement towards such incidents.

However, the story took a shocking turn when Vera Pekhteleva’s mother, Oksana, received a photograph that defied belief. The image showed Kanyus not in a prison uniform but dressed as a Russian soldier, surrounded by fellow troops. It was a revelation that stunned the bereaved family and caused widespread consternation.

In Ukraine
Kanyus in Ukraine after serving less than a year in prison. Image Credit: The Bell

In a controversial move, President Vladimir Putin pardoned Kanyus, offering him a path to freedom in exchange for military service in Ukraine. This decision was part of a broader strategy to avoid another contentious mobilization ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. To bolster military ranks, the Russian Defense Ministry had turned to an unconventional source – recruiting from prisons.

Human rights activists reported that around 100,000 Russian individuals had been enlisted from penal colonies, with offers to reduce sentences for those convicted of severe crimes. This approach, initially pioneered by the late Wagner Group mercenary boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, was now being implemented on a larger scale.

Not an Isolated Incident

The case of Kanyus was not an isolated incident. Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer convicted in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a renowned journalist, also received a pardon from Putin. Khadzhikurbanov, sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014, was freed after six months of military duty in Ukraine. His lawyer confirmed that Khadzhikurbanov had signed another contract to continue serving in the army.

The Pekhteleva family, meanwhile, was left reeling from the revelation of Kanyus’s pardon. They had only become suspicious of his release upon receiving the photograph of him armed. Official confirmation from the local prosecutor’s office came much later, informing them of Kanyus’s pardon and deployment to the front line.