| 4 December 2023, Monday |

Russian convicts released to fight with Wagner accused of new crimes

A prisoner believed to have been released early to fight with Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine has been accused of committing a double murder in Russia after returning home from the war.

Demyan Kevorkyan, who was given an 18-year prison sentence in 2016, has been arrested for killing a young man and woman on their way home from work.

He denies the accusation.

The BBC has learned he is not the only convict freed early to fight, pardoned and then accused of reoffending.

He was one of 150 prisoners recruited by Wagner on 31 August 2022 when the head of the mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, visited his prison, according to a former inmate quoted on a social media channel.

The BBC has been told that Kevorkyan was later spotted back in his home village of Pridorozhnaya in Krasnodar, south-west Russia telling people he had just returned from the battlefields of Ukraine.

One of the people he is accused of killing is 19-year-old Tatyana Mostyko, a children’s entertainer. Her mother Nadezhda shows us a video of Tatyana in a pink and blue jumpsuit, dancing and organizing games at a party.

But the last job Tatyana did was on 28 April. Her boss Kirill Chubko was driving her home when they got a puncture and pulled over on to the side of a road near the town of Berezanskaya, in south-west Russia. Kirill’s wife Darya told local media he called her to say he’d be late, but not to worry as a group of young people had stopped to help them. That was the last time she heard his voice.

By morning, the pair were still not home. Sensing something was wrong, a worried Darya called the police.

Hundreds of people helped search remote countryside and Tatyana’s mother began a six-hour journey to the area, catching a plane and train from her small village in Siberia, in eastern Russia.

  • Reuters