A Russian defector from Wagner recognised his former colleagues in footage apparently showing the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war.
Andrey Medvedev, who escaped Vladimir Putin’s de facto private army in January, later seeking asylum in Norway, identified the for-hire soldiers by ‘nicknames, the way they talk, and their manner when talking over the radio’.
Emerging on social media over the weekend, the disturbing clips appears to show a Russian soldier using a knife to cut the head off a hostage.
In one video, a voice encourages a killer to break the spine of his victim, identified by a yellow tactical armband, as he struggles on the floor.
‘Get working, brothers. Break his spine, f–k, have you never cut off a head?’, they can be heard saying.
It is unclear when or where this ISIS-style footage was shot, and who is behind it.
But an exiled Russian human rights group has said evidence indicates it was an act by Wagner fighters.
‘We contacted Andrey Medvedev, 26, ex-commander of the first squad of the 4th platoon of the 7th Wagner PMC assault squad, now in deportation prison,’ said Vladimir Osechkin, founder of Gulagu.net.
‘We sent this video, he listened to it several times and watched it carefully. He definitely identifies [in the video] his former colleagues, members of the Wagner PMC [private military company].
‘By their distinctive callsigns, the way they talk, what they say on the radios, as they go about this extrajudicial execution, that brutal murder.’
Osechkin stressed that Medvedev ‘was in Wagner and knows their call signs and code words and ciphers’.
He ‘helps us to identify them [and establish] that fighters of the illegal armed group known as Wagner PMC were involved in this extrajudicial execution, a terrible murder’.
Ukraine has vowed to identify the knifeman and a second suspected Russian fighter who appeared to be taunting him to decapitate the prisoner of war.
Osechkin has offered a £2,670 reward for information on the identities of those behind the atrocity.
The identity of the victim – seen pleading for mercy before he is decapitated – remains unclear.
The chief of Wagner, close Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, said: ‘I watched this video.
‘It is bad when people’s heads are cut off, but I have not found anywhere that this is happening near Bakhmut or that fighters of PMC Wagner are participating in the execution.’
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to punish the Russian ‘murderers’ in the video and urged international leaders to act.
‘This is something that no-one in the world can ignore – how easily these beasts kill’, the politician said.
‘This video – the execution of a Ukrainian captive – the world must see it. This is a video of Russia as it is – what kind of creatures they are.
‘There are no people for them. A son, a brother, a husband – someone’s child.’
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