Russian Wagner has published a video purporting to depict the execution of a deserter who collaborated with Ukrainian forces.
The soldier is shown in the film giving his name and details of his recruitment before being attacked with a sledgehammer in a cellar; the clip can be viewed on the Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel Grey Zone.
Three months ago, Wagner also uploaded a video depicting an “execution” with a sledgehammer.
Wagner has deployed thousands of troops to Ukraine, where fierce fighting has broken out.
The so-called “private military business” has been active in Crimea since 2014.
Since then, it has been accused of violence and war crimes while operating in Syria, other areas of Ukraine, and across Africa.
Take care, the details below could be distressing to read.
Grey Zone’s accompanying written post identified the suspected “traitor” as Dmitry Yakushchenko, a 44-year-old who was born in Crimea but allegedly fled to Ukraine just four days after signing up to fight for Wagner.
According to the BBC’s investigation, the clip originated on the Ukrainian channel Espresso.TV, where he was originally shown being held captive.
Yakushchenko hinted that in a few years, Crimea could be under Ukrainian rule again.
The story goes that he had previously served time in prison for murder but had jumped at the chance to fight for Wagner so that he might get out early. It is good knowledge that Wagner scouted inmates in Russian jails for potential recruits.
Yakushchenko’s head is then tied to a piece of construction debris that is propped up against a stone wall while the video pans to a shot of him sitting in a cellar.
There’s another guy behind him with a sledgehammer. This is a trial for betrayal, as the caption puts it.
Moments before his death, Yakushchenko, apparently recalling his capture after defecting, says that he was struck on the head by attackers in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro.
The cellar “where I was told I would be tried” was where he came to after passing out.
Yakushchenko stumbles backward and the film blurs when the first hammer strike is landed. The fight escalates, and then a caption announces that “the court hearing is adjourned.”
An ex-convict named Yevgeny Nuzhin, like Yakushchenko is mentioned in the Grey Zone post as a way to make a sarcastic comment on Yakushchenko’s death.
It was written that “he caught the same ailment that makes you lose consciousness in Ukrainian cities, earlier in Kyiv, now in Dnipro, and then wake up in a basement at your last court session,” referring to his colleague Yevgeny Nuzhin.
Wagner’s leader has defended the graphic murder footage.
Ukraine’s War, in Depth
Where and when the video was shot was not specified in the transcript or the video itself.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine a year ago, the hitherto secretive mercenary outfit has gone public, even opening a large headquarters in St. Petersburg.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a founder of Wagner, has deep ties to the Kremlin and is known as “Putin’s chef” for his years of service cooking for the country’s ruling class and armed forces.
He has downplayed the role of the Russian military and instead given credit to Wagner for the operation on Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.