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.

We have confirmed that suspects in about 20 serious offences, including rape and murder, are fighters recruited by the Wagner mercenary group in prison and released early to serve in Ukraine.

Kevorkyan was one of 150 prisoners recruited on 31 August 2022 when the head of Wagner, 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 organising games at a party.

“She loved that work,” says Nadezhda. “When she came back from a job, she’d laugh about what they’d been doing, how she amused them.”

Family ArchiveIMAGE SOURCE,FAMILY ARCHIVE Image caption, Tatyana Mostyko was murdered at the age of 19

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.

Three suspects were arrested, including 31-year-old Kevorkyan. The other two, Anatoly Dvoynikov and Aram Tatosyan, led detectives to makeshift graves in woodland not far from Kirill’s burned-out car. Kirill and Tatyana had been stabbed and police said that the young woman showed “signs of a violent death”.

Dvoynikov and Tatosyan confessed to robbery and murder and said Kevorkyan was in charge, although Kevorkyan denies any involvement.

Nadezhda could not believe Kevorkyan was a free man, having been sentenced to 18 years in prison for an eerily similar crime before. “He shouldn’t have got out before 2028,” she says.

Kevorkyan was convicted of running a gang that had hijacked a car not far from where Tatyana and Kirill were murdered. They robbed the people inside and shot one of them dead.

“On what legitimate basis was he released?” asks Nadezhda. Under Russian law, inmates should serve at least two-thirds of their sentence. “He should have served at least 12 years. He served only six,” she says, as she struggles to come to terms with the thought that Tatyana’s brutal murder could have been avoided.

“The worst thing was when we landed and I switched my phone back on. There were endless messages,” says Nadezhda. “You can’t imagine how I panicked. I hurled the phone away, because they could only mean one thing – that it was all over. It was animal fear. I can’t describe it.”
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