Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said today that the former mercenary who was filmed being executed with a hammer to the head after switching sides in the Ukraine war was a traitor.
Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who founded the private military group Wagner, reacted to an unverified video circulating on Telegram showing a man identified as a former Wagner mercenary being executed after admitting to switching sides in September , to “fight against the Russians”.
The footage shows the man, identified as Evgeny Nuzhin, 55, with his head taped to a brick wall. He said he was kidnapped in Kyiv on October 11 and ended up in a basement.
“They hit me on the head, I lost consciousness and I ended up in this basement,” he said. “They told me I was going to be judged.” As he says these words, an unidentified man walking in combat clothing behind Nuzhin hits the side of his head and neck with a hammer.
In the video, Nuzhin is seen falling to the ground and the unidentified man delivers another blow to his head with the hammer.
Reuters could not immediately verify the video, which appeared on the Gray Zone Telegram channel – one of several that Russian media say are linked to the Wagner group. The video was published under the title “The Hammer of Vengeance”.
Asked to comment on the execution video, Prigogine said the video should be called “A Dog Gets a Dog’s Death.”
“Nuzhin betrayed his people, betrayed his comrades knowingly,” said Prigozhin, who is sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for his role in Wagner. “Nuzhin was a traitor”.
Prigogine only confirmed in September that he founded the Wagner Group in 2014. This is the first public acknowledgment of a relationship he has previously denied and sued journalists for covering.
The Wagner group, originally made up of veterans of the Russian armed forces, has fought in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Mali and Ukraine, among other countries.
Prigogine is shown in a video released in September recruiting convicts in a Russian prison for the war, warning them that the conflict is difficult and laying down rules for their behavior. In further comments on the video of the execution today, Prigozhin also issued a warning to other members of Russian society whom he described as traitors.
“Remember that there are not only traitors who throw away their assault rifles and go over to the side of the enemy,” he said.
“Some traitors hide in their offices and don’t think about their own people. Some of them use their own official planes to fly to those countries that for now seem neutral to us. They fly away so as not to participate in today’s problems. They are also traitors”.