Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin applauds murder of war veteran
Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group is heavily involved in fighting in Ukraine, has applauded a video in which a former member of the group is brutally murdered.
The video surfaced over the weekend on the Gray Zone Telegram channel, which frequently features 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 deserted and crossed over to the Ukrainian side being murdered with clubs. The man is named (and names himself in the video) as 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 consciousness.
He adds: « I woke up in this cellar, where I was told that I would be judged. »
Within seconds he is killed, hit at least once with a mace.
Prigozhin was asked on his Telegram channel about the murder. Without directly acknowledging that Wagner’s fighters 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. On the contrary, he planned his escape. Nuzhin is a traitor.
“Russians smell betrayal – it’s genetic. Hence the comments on social media,” Prigozhin said, referring to some positive responses to the murder.
In a separate Telegram post, Prigozhin called the video « an excellent directorial job ».
“I prefer to see this story in the theatre. As for the executed, in this show it is clear that he did not find happiness in Ukraine, but rather met wicked, albeit righteous people. It seems to me that this film is called “The dog receives the death of the dog”.
The text on the Gray Zone channel accompanying the video said that « the hammer and the traitors have a close relationship for ‘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 his surrender to Ukrainian forces and his willingness to fight alongside Kyiv.
Nuzhin also explained 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 her support for Ukraine and revealing more details about the workings of the Wagner Group.
In the interview, Nuzhin confirmed that he spent 23 years in prison in Nizhny Novgorod for murder. He was 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 on your own family? ”
On Sunday, Vladimir Osechkin, head of Gulagu.net, a prisoner advocacy group, said on his blog that he had interviewed Nuzhin’s sons, who confirmed he was their father in the video.
It is still unclear how Nuzhin ended up in captivity.
CNN contacted Ukrainian authorities, asking if Nuzhin was returned to Russian-held 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 Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Yermak, said in a statement that 45 Ukrainian soldiers had returned from captivity in a new round of prisoner swaps.
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. It’s not our business.
Prigozhin is said to be one of Putin’s trusted confidants – so close that the Russian press dubbed him the Russian president’s ‘boss’ after he began organizing events for the Kremlin.
In September he admitted to founding the Wagner Group after years of denying any involvement with the outfit.