Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner group is heavily involved in fighting in Ukraine, has praised a video in which a former member of the group is brutally murdered.
Videos surfaced over the weekend on the Gray Zone Telegram channel, which often shows the activities of Wagner Group mercenaries, which are accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
It featured a member of the group being hit with a hammer and moved to the Ukrainian side. The man’s name (and the name of himself in the video) is Yevgeny Nuzin.
In the video, Nuzin says: “On September 4 I carried out my plan by switching to fighting with the Ukrainian troops. On November 11, I was on a street in Kyiv when someone hit me on the head and I lost consciousness.”
He continues: “I woke up in this dungeon, where I was told I would be judged.”
Within seconds, he is struck, at least once, with a hammer.
Prigozhin was asked about the murder on his Telegram channel. Without directly acknowledging that the Wagner fighters had carried out the assassination, he said: “Nuzhin betrayed his people, betrayed his comrades, deceived them intentionally. He was neither taken prisoner nor surrendered.” Rather he planned to escape. Nuzhin is a traitor.”
“Russian people can smell betrayal – it’s genetic. Hence the comments on social networks,” Prigozhin said, referring to some positive reactions to the murder.
In a separate Telegram post, Prigozhin called the video “an outstanding director’s work.”
“I like to see this story in the theater. As for the execs, in this show it is clear that he did not find happiness in Ukraine, but met ruthless, albeit fair people. It seems to me that the name of this film is “The dog gets the death of the dog.”
The text on the Gray Zone channel accompanying the video stated that “The Hammer and the Traitors have a close association with the ‘orchestra’. [ie Wagner], And now, having suddenly disappeared from the investigation in Kyiv, the traitor receives the traditional early Wagnerian punishment.”
In early September, Nuzin was interviewed by Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov, and spoke about his readiness to surrender to the Ukrainian army and fight on the side of Kyiv.
Nuzin also described how the Wagner group recruits prisoners to fight in Ukraine in exchange for the promise of a full pardon in Russia.
In early October, Nuzin gave another interview to Ukrainian journalist Ramina Ashakzai, in which she expressed her support for Ukraine and revealed more details about the Wagner Group’s operations.
In interviews, Nuzhin confirmed that he had spent 23 years in prison in Nizhny Novgorod on charges of murder. He was due to be released in 2027, but decided to join the Wagner group to fight in Ukraine.
He also told Eshaqzai: “My parents live in western Ukraine. How can you wage war with your own family? ,
On Sunday, Vladimir Osekkin, head of Gulagu.net, a prisoner advocacy group, said on his blog that he had interviewed Nuzin’s sons, who confirmed it was their father in the video.
It is still unclear how Nuzin ended up in captivity.
CNN has contacted Ukrainian officials, asking whether Nuzin was deported back to Russian-occupied territory in exchange for the liberation of Ukrainian prisoners of war, or whether he was abducted without his knowledge.
On Friday, Andrey Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said in a statement that 45 Ukrainian soldiers had returned from captivity in another round of prisoner exchanges.
Anastasia Kasheverova, a former adviser to the head of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, said the exchange involved fighters from the Wagner company, but did not identify them.
Asked about the video on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have no comment. What it is, how true it is, we don’t know. It’s not our job.”
Prigozin is reportedly one of Putin’s trusted confidants – so close that the Russian press dubbed him a “chef” to the Russian president after he started a catering program for the Kremlin.
In September, he admitted to founding the Wagner Group after years of refusing to be involved with the organization.