Soldier executed with sledgehammer for 'deserting' Russian mercenary army

A Crimean mercenary was brutally executed with a sledgehammer after supposedly fleeing the Russian Wagner Group in Ukraine.

An unverified video of the killing, captioned ‘Video from the court for treason’, was published on the Grey Zone Telegram channel, which is linked to the notorious mercenary organisation.

It shows a man with his head taped to a number of blocks beside a concrete wall, as a figure lurks behind him holding the weapon.

The man identifies himself as Crimea-born Dmitry Yakushchenko, 44.

Reports in Russia suggest he was serving a 19-year sentence for murder and robbery when he was recruited to join Vladimir Putin’s army, as part of a scheme that would offer him a pardon if he survived for six months.

In the first section of the video, he appears to be interviewed by Ukrainians, explaining how he escaped after being put on the frontline.

He says: ‘My fourth day started, I took my machine gun, some magazines, [and] a couple of grenades….

‘I crawled somewhere and lay down until the shooting stopped, drones were flying.’

He kept moving his position and he ‘turned out to be on the Ukrainian side’.

Yakushchenko told his interrogators he hoped Crimea would one day return to Ukraine, and urged more Russians to defect.

Between that part of the video being filmed and the next, Yakushchenko was handed back over to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange.

Now being held by the Wagner Group, he faces the camera and says: ‘I was in the streets of the city of Dnipro where I got hit on the head and lost consciousness.

‘I woke up in this room and was told I would be tried.’

The figure behind him then swings the sledgehammer towards his head, but the apparent violence is blurred out.

A loud noise can be heard and Yakushchenko collapses to the floor, before the sledgehammer is swung at him twice more.

A caption then appears on the video which says: ‘The court session is declared closed.’

The brutal execution mirrors that of Yevgenny Nuzhin, another mercenary for the Wagner Group who was also accused of desertion.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the paramilitary organisation and a close confidant of Putin, later claimed to have sent a sledgehammer smeared with fake blood to the European Parliament.

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