The Dossier Center, an investigative outlet funded by exiled former oligarch and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has published an investigation that revealed the identities of Wagner PMC fighters who beat a Syrian man to death with a sledgehammer in 2017, and published footage of the execution online. Some of the men mentioned in the investigation are no longer alive, while others have left the PMC and are likely living in Russia.
The identity of one of the killers, Stanislav Dychko, was established by newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 2019: he revealed his face in one of the videos captured at the scene of the execution. In the course of the Dossier investigation, Dyachko was fired from the PMC “for health reasons” – on the same day that the video of the murder appeared online. Dychko died in unknown circumstances in 2021.
The investigators identified the following individuals as taking part in the murder:
- Jahongir Mirazorov. A native of Tajikistan who lived in Russia's Krasnodar region. Enlisted in the Wagner PMC in 2015, traveled to Donbas, Syria and Africa. In 2018, Mirazorov was kicked out for drug use. His further fate is unknown.
- Vladislav Apostol. A Moldovan national who grew up in an orphanage in Russia’s Belgorod region. Served in the PMC since 2016. Died in the Middle East in 2018.
- Mikhail Masharov. Born in Astrakhan, worked for the Wagner PMC since 2017. According to Dossier, Masharov was fired from the PMC after a video of the killing in Syria, which he recorded on his smartphone, was published online.
- Vladimir Kitaev. A native of Nakhodka, worked for the PMC since 2015. After the execution, he continued his service and led a platoon in Africa.
- Vladislav Panchuk. Born in Starokostiantyniv in Ukraine’s Khmelnitsky region. Registered in Bataisk in Russia’s Rostov region. Member of the Wagner PMC since 2015. No information could be found about his dismissal from the PMC or his death.
- Oleg Kongin. A native of Krasnoyarsk, lived in Goryachiy Klyuch in the Krasnodar region, fought in Chechnya.
- Andrey Bakunovich. A dual citizen of Russia and Belarus. Bakunovich was among the militants detained near Minsk in the summer of 2020 on suspicion of terrorism. It later turned out that it was an operation by the Ukrainian special services, which had gathered mercenaries who had fought in the Donbas on behalf of a non-existent PMC. The operation was disrupted by the Belarusian KGB. Eventually, the detained fighters were released, and almost all of them returned to Russia. The further fate of Bakunovich is unknown.
- Igor Krizhanovsky. Enlisted in the Wagner PMC in 2017, soon took part in the execution in Syria and died in combat in the same year.
As revealed by the Dossier Center, the Wagner fighters committed the murder of the Syrian citizen, who appears in the documents under the name El-Ismail, by order of their superiors: El-Ismail was accused of desertion from the Syrian army. A video of the torture to which the man was subjected, as well as footage of his murder and the mocking of his body, were arranged as part of an internal report. However, several men that took part in the killing filmed it on their smartphones, with the footage later being leaked online and provoking an internal investigation at the PMC.
Documents related to the investigation were handed over to Dossier journalists by hackers who managed to access the servers of Concord, a holding company owned by Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. The tip was crucial to the journalists establishing the identities of those involved in the execution.
Dossier also named the man in direct command of the killers and who, most likely, gave the order for the execution – the commander of the 4th assault squadron, Nikolai Budko. Budko, born in Belarus, moved to Russia in the 1990s and served in the country's riot police. His service record also includes service in the French Foreign Legion. Budko enlisted in the Wagner PMC in 2015. The Dossier piece also mentions the Wagner PMC employees involved in carrying out the internal investigation.