The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, applauds the killing of the former fighter



CNN

Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group is heavily involved in the fighting in Ukraine, has applauded a video in which a former member of the group is brutally murdered.

The video appeared over the weekend on the Gray Zone Telegram channel, which frequently shows the activities of mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group, accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.

It showed a member of the group who had defected to the Ukrainian side being killed with a hammer. The man’s name (and his name in the video) is Yevgeny Nuzhin.

In the video, Nuzhin says: “On September 4, I carried out my plan by switching to fight alongside Ukrainian troops. On November 11, I was on a street in Kyiv when someone hit me on the head and I lost knowledge”.

And he adds: “I woke up in this cellar, where they told me that I would be judged”.

Within seconds, he is killed, struck at least once with a hammer.

Prigozhin was asked on his Telegram channel about the assassination. Without directly acknowledging that Wagner’s fighters had carried out the murder, he said: “Nuzhin betrayed his people, betrayed his comrades, consciously betrayed them. He was not taken prisoner, nor did he surrender. More soon, he planned his escape. Nuzhin is a traitor.”

“Russians can smell betrayal – it’s genetic. Hence the comments on social media,” Prigozhin said, referring to some positive responses to the assassination.

In a separate Telegram post, Prigozhin called the video “excellent directorial work.”

“I prefer to see this story in the theater. As for the executed, in this show it is clear that he did not find happiness in Ukraine, but met unkind, albeit fair, people. I think this movie is called “The dog gets the death of the dog”.

The text on the Gray Zone channel accompanying the video stated that “the hammer and the traitors have a close relationship with the ‘orchestra’ [ie Wagner]. And now, suddenly disappearing from the investigation in Kyiv, the traitor received the traditional primordial Wagnerian punishment.”

In early September, Nuzhin was interviewed by Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov and spoke about surrendering to Ukrainian forces and his willingness to fight alongside Kyiv.

Nuzhin also talked about how the Wagner group recruits prisoners to fight in Ukraine in exchange for the promise of a full pardon in Russia.

In early October, Nuzhin gave another interview to Ukrainian journalist Ramina Eskhakzai expressing his support for Ukraine and revealing more details about how the Wagner group works.

In the interview, Nuzhin confirmed that he had spent 23 years in prison in Nizhny Novgorod for murder. He was due to be released in 2027, but chose to join the Wagner group to fight in Ukraine.

He also told Eskhakzai: “My parents live in western Ukraine. How can you make war with your own family?”

On Sunday, Vladimir Osechkin, head of Gulagu.net, a prisoner advocacy group, said on his blog that he had interviewed the children of Nuzhin, who he confirmed was their father in the video.

It is still unclear how Nuzhin ended up in captivity.

CNN has reached out to Ukrainian authorities, asking if Nuzhin was sent back to Russian-controlled territory in exchange for the release of Ukrainian prisoners of war, or if he was abducted without their knowledge.

On Friday, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, said in a statement that 45 Ukrainian soldiers had returned from captivity in another round of prisoner exchanges.

Anastasia Kashevarova, a former adviser to Russian State Duma head Vyacheslav Volodin, said the exchange included fighters from the Wagner Company, but she did not identify them.

Asked about the video on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have no comment. We don’t know what it is, how true it is. This is none of our business.”

Prigozhin is one of Putin’s trusted confidants, so close that the Russian press dubbed him the Russian president’s “chef” after he began organizing events for the Kremlin.

In September, he admitted to founding the Wagner Group after years of denying his involvement with the group.

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