A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, stated on Sunday that a former mercenary who was filmed being executed with a sledgehammer strike to the head after switching sides in the Ukraine conflict was a traitor.
Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who founded the Wagner private military group, was responding to an unverified video circulating on Telegram that depicted a former Wagner mercenary being executed after admitting that he had switched sides in September to “fight against the Russians”.
In the video, the 55-year-old man identified as Yevgeny Nuzhin had his head taped to a masonry wall. He claimed he was kidnapped in Kiev on October 11 and awoke in a cellar.
“I was struck in the head, lost consciousness, and regained consciousness in this cellar,” he explained. They informed me that I would be tried.
As he spoke, an unidentified individual in combat attire who was loitering behind Nuzhin smashed a sledgehammer into his head and neck.
Nuzhin fell to the ground, and the unidentified man struck him again in the cranium.
Reuters was unable to immediately corroborate the video that appeared on the Grey Zone Telegram channel, one of a number of videos that Russian media claimed to be associated with the Wagner group. The title of the video was “The hammer of vengeance.”
When asked to comment on the execution video, Prigozhin stated that the video should be titled “A dog receives a dog’s death” in remarks released by his spokeswoman.
“Nuzhin betrayed his people, betrayed his comrades, and betrayed consciously,” said Prigozhin, who was sanctioned by the United States and European Union for his role in Wagner. “Nuzhin was a traitor.”
Prigozhin did not affirm that he founded the Wagner Group in 2014 until September, the first public acknowledgment of a connection he had previously denied and sued journalists for reporting.
Wagner group, originally comprised of Russian military veterans, has fought in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Mali, and Ukraine, among other countries.
In a video published in September, Prigozhin was depicted enlisting inmates in a Russian prison for the war, warning them that the conflict would be difficult and outlining rules for their conduct.
In additional remarks about the execution video made on Sunday, Prigozhin issued a warning to other traitors in Russian society.
“Remember, it’s not only traitors who abandon their automatic weapons and join the enemy,” he said.
“Some traitors are ensconced in offices, oblivious to their own people. Some of them use their own business aircraft to travel to these neutral-appearing nations. They depart so as to avoid participating in the problems of the present. They are also traitors.”