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Wagner denies involvement in killing of mercenaries in Ukraine

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary group, accuses the US of executing Yevgenny Nuzhin, who reportedly switched sides to join Ukrainian forces.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, has denied that he was involved in the execution of one of his fighters in Ukraine.

Last week, a social media account linked to Wagner shared unverified footage of a man identified as a former mercenary killed after declaring he had switched sides in September to “fight the Russians.”

In the footage, the man, who gave his name as Yevgeny Nuzhin, 55, is shown with his head pressed against a brick wall. He said that he was kidnapped in Kyiv on October 11 and turned up in a basement.

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“I was hit in the head and I lost consciousness and rolled over in this basement,” he said. “They told me I was going to be tried.”

As he said those words, an unidentified man in combat gear was seen behind Nuzhin, striking the side of his head and neck with a sledgehammer.

Nuzhin collapsed to the ground and the unidentified man struck him on the head again.

The video appeared on the Gray Zone Telegram channel, one of several that Russian media said was linked to the Wagner group. The footage was released under the title The Hammer of Vengeance.

Asked to comment on the video of the execution, Prigozhin said in comments posted by his spokesman on Sunday that the video should be called “A dog receives the death of a dog” and label Nuzhin a “traitor.”

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“Nuzhin betrayed his people, he betrayed his comrades, he betrayed knowingly,” said Prigozhin, who has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for his role in Wagner.

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But on Tuesday, the 61-year-old denied Wagner’s involvement and accused US intelligence services of being behind the murder, without providing any evidence to back up his claim.

“I asked Wagner employees if they kidnapped Evgeny Nuzhin and if they participated in his torture. None provided any information about his involvement in her kidnapping or torture,” Prigozhin said in a letter to Igor Krasnov, Russia’s attorney general, and posted on Russia’s VKontakte social media service.

“It is very clear to me that Nuzhin was kidnapped and violently murdered by agents of the US intelligence services,” he added, calling on Krasnov to open an investigation into the murder.

The Russian rights group, Gulagu.net, which advocates for prisoners in Russian detention, has said that Nuzhin was imprisoned in Russia before being recruited by Wagner to fight in Ukraine.

Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been accused of personally participating in a recruitment drive by offering contracts in Russian prisons, promising that those who surrender or are captured will be killed.

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In September he revealed for the first time that he had founded the Wagner group in 2014.

Originally staffed by veterans of the Russian armed forces, Wagner’s mercenaries have fought in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Mali and Ukraine, among other countries, in recent years.

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Earlier this month, the group opened its first official headquarters in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city.

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