‘I realized this isn’t my war’ New footage appears to show the sledgehammer murder of another former Wagner Group mercenary
A new video posted by the Wagner mercenary group’s semi-official Telegram channel appears to show the murder by sledgehammer of Dmitry Yakushchenko, an ex-convict who joined Wagner Group from prison before apparently surrendering to Ukraine on the battlefield. The gruesome clip comes just three months after a similar video surfaced that showed the murder of Yevgeny Nuzhin, another former Wagner fighter. Here’s what we know about the Yakushchenko video so far.
Grey Zone, a Telegram channel with close links to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, has published a new video that appears to show the murder of a former Wagner fighter who surrendered to Ukraine.
The man shown in the footage is purported to be Dmitry Yakushchenko, a former prisoner from Crimea who joined the war in Ukraine after signing a contract with Wagner Group but surrendered to the Ukrainian side four months later. According to Grey Zone, Yakushchenko “got infected with that same disease that causes you to lose consciousness in Ukrainian cities, whether it’s Kyiv or, in this case, Dnipro, and later wake up in a basement at your last court hearing.”
In the clip, a man, whose head appears to be taped to a pile of concrete bricks, confirms that his name is Dmitry Yakushchenko, that he’s originally from Crimea, and that he previously spent time in prison. “I went to the front as part of Wagner Group. While on the front line, I realized that this isn’t my war. Today, I was on the streets of Dnipro, where I was hit in the head and lost consciousness. When I came to, I was in this room, where they told me I was going to be put on trial,” he says. After that, he’s repeatedly hit in the head with a sledgehammer, though the footage of his murder is blurred out. David Frenkel, a journalist from Mediazona, has suggested that the footage may be fake.
The beginning of the video also shows segments of an older video featuring Yakushchenko that seems to have been recorded while he was in Ukrainian captivity. This earlier clip was widely shared by Ukrainian media in November 2022. In it, Yakushchenko recounts being sentenced to 19 years in prison and serving part of his sentence in Russia’s Saratov region before signing up to go to war in order to “find any kind of loophole […] to escape.” Ultimately, he says, he surrendered to Ukrainian forces near the city of Bakhmut.
According to the independent Russian outlet Agentstvo, Yakushchenko was likely returned to Russia in a prisoner exchange on December 1, 2022. He can be seen in videos of the swap that were published by the Russian Defense Ministry and RT.
Back in November 2022, Grey Zone published a similar video that showed the sledgehammer murder of former prisoner and Wagner recruit Yevgeny Nuzhin. In the months since then, Wagner Group founder Evgeny Prigozhin and his recruiters have frequently used sledgehammers as a symbol of the mercenary company in PR materials.