The son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, 33-year-old Nikolai Peskov, has claimed that he served with the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine for almost six months because he felt it was his duty to do so.
Wagner is considered a “private military company” in Russia and has been accused of war crimes and other abuses in Ukraine. Despite heavy losses, it has recruited thousands of prisoners from jails.
It is unusual for members of the Russian elite to join the group as many prefer to go abroad to avoid being conscripted into the regular army.
Nikolai, also known as Nikolai Choles, speaks English fluently and has previously worked for the Russian state broadcaster RT. He used a false ID to conceal his Kremlin connections from his Wagner comrades.
His father and he are both under US sanctions. The announcement comes at a time of a significant new army recruitment drive, with Russian state adverts urging men to fulfill their “patriotic duty” in the Ukraine conflict. The BBC was unable to verify Nikolai Peskov’s claims.
Last September, tens of thousands of men fled Russia to evade conscription when President Vladimir Putin declared a “partial mobilization.”
Nikolai Peskov, the son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, has not disclosed where he served in Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, has provided more information.
Prigozhin revealed that after joining Wagner with a false identity, Peskov underwent a three-week training program before joining an Uragan crew.
Prigozhin described Peskov as having “showed courage and heroism, just like all the others,” and stated that Dmitry Peskov had requested his son be taken on as a simple artilleryman.
Nikolai Peskov, who claims to have served with the Russian mercenary group Wagner in Ukraine, stated that he received a bravery medal this year after he and his team “accomplished a feat.”
However, he did not provide further details about the mission. Peskov’s comments follow a September 2022 YouTube prank, in which journalist Dmitry Nizovtsev pretended to be a military recruiter and called Peskov, who was reluctant to join the army.
Peskov’s father, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, reportedly helped his son join Wagner by using false documents. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin stated that Nikolai underwent a three-week training course and later joined an Uragan rocket launcher crew.
The Russian military has faced criticism for its handling of the Ukraine conflict, including accusations of under-equipping Wagner. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin outlawed public criticism of Wagner or the armed forces, with penalties including prison terms of up to seven years for “discrediting” any part of the Russian military.