Iraqi killed fighting for Russia's Wagner in Ukraine

Iraqi killed fighting for Russia's Wagner in Ukraine
Much of the fighting for Bakhmut was done by convict fighters, including Iraqi national Abbas Witwit, who was killed last month.
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Thousands of troops fighting for Russia have lost their lives in the bloody battle for Bakhmut [Getty images]

An Iraqi citizen fighting with Russia's Wagner mercenary force was killed in Ukraine in early April, the first confirmed case of a Middle East native dying in the conflict, the RIA FAN news website reported this week.

Iraqi national Abbas Abuthar Witwit died on April 7, a day after arriving at a Wagner Group hospital in the Russian-controlled, eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, RIA FAN said.

It said he had been wounded in Bakhmut, the city in Donetsk province that Prigozhin said Wagner had taken in mid-May, after a battle that had raged since last year.

In an interview with a pro-Russian blogger, Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said the whole conflict had cost 20,000 of his men's lives.

In video published by RIA FAN, a man identified as Witwit's father is shown receiving awards posthumously given to his son, and that he had supported his decision to enlist in Wagner as a "volunteer".

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"Abbas always pursued his freedom and wanted to be a man who defends his freedom and himself, and he told me he found his freedom in Russia," he is shown saying.

Prigozhin did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Much of the fighting for Bakhmut was done by convict fighters, recruited by Wagner from prisons on the promise of a pardon if they survived six months at the front in Ukraine.

According to court papers seen by Reuters, Witwit was in July 2021 sentenced to four and a half years in prison on drug charges by a court in the Russian city of Kazan.

The documents said that Witwit was a first year student at a technical university in Kazan when he was arrested by police with a large quantity of cannabis.

Reuters was not able to confirm that Witwit was in prison when recruited by Wagner. 

Reporting by Reuters