A Wagner Group soldier who quit in Ukraine was taken by other soldiers and killed, a Telegram account with ties to the Russian mercenary group said Monday, along with a video of the supposed killing.
This is the second video of a Wagner recruit who seems to have been killed by a sledgehammer that has been made public in the past few months, after the group’s head threatened to take extrajudicial action against convicted criminals who leave the battlefield.
But a video posted Monday night by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, showed that Yakushchenko was still alive.
In the video, he thanks Wagner for “sparing” him in exchange for “bringing valuable information from captivity that saved many” Russian fighters’ lives.
“Everyone has a right to fix their mistakes,” he said on camera.
The Grey Zone Telegram channel says that Dmitry Yakushchenko, who was 45 years old, had left the battlefield just days after joining Wagner. He had joined Wagner while he was serving a 19-year prison term for murder.
In the film, he can be heard saying, “Today, I was on the street in the city of Dnipro when I was hit in the head. I lost consciousness and woke up in this facility, where I was told I would be put on trial.”
Then the picture gets fuzzy, and it looks like Yakushchenko is hit three times with a club.
David Frenkel, an independent writer, questioned right away whether or not the horrible video was real. He said the slow-motion sledgehammer execution might have been staged.
The footage shared by Grey Zone could not be checked by a third party.
Agentsvo, an independent news source, says that Yakushchenko was sent back to Russia in December as part of a prisoner swap.
Last fall, many people saw videos of Prigozhin telling Russian inmates that they would be killed if they ran away.
In November, a video of Wagner fighter and convicted killer Yevgeny Nuzhin killing a deserter in Ukraine with a sledgehammer after he was caught was widely shared on social media.
Prigozhin was happy when Nuzhin was killed at first, saying that he earned a “dog’s death,” but he later distanced himself and denied that Wagner had anything to do with Nuzhin’s death.
After a CNN interview with two unidentified Wagner fighters, who said that commanders shot other recruits for not following orders on the battlefield, footage of Yakushchenko’s claimed execution was released.
People think that Prigozhin got up to 50,000 prisoners to join Wagner before he suddenly said last week that the recruiting drive was over.