A Russian mercenary shown on video this week ostensibly being executed for desertion by the Wagner private militia has appeared, unharmed, with Wagner’s chief on another clip aired on Wednesday.
Russian war correspondent Alexander Kots posted footage on his Telegram channel of the fighter, who had identified himself as Dmitry Yakushchenko, answering questions from journalists about time he had spent in Ukrainian captivity.
Wagner, which promotes itself as Russia’s premier fighting force, says it is the main unit fighting to seize the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donetsk province.
Its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on the video that Yakushchenko had been captured after losing his way near the front line, but was then released in a prisoner swap and had brought back valuable information about enemy operations.
Prigozhin invited those present to ask Yakushchenko “whether he was killed with a sledgehammer.”
Wagner has adopted the sledgehammer as its symbol after reportedly using it to execute a defector from its ranks last year.
A video posted on Monday by Grey Zone, a Telegram channel linked to Wagner, appears to show a man swinging a sledgehammer into Yakushchenko’s head and Yakushchenko collapsing, although the video blurs at the crucial moment.
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