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Ukraine posts image of dog tag it says belonged to mercenary group hired to assassinate Zelensky

Business Insider US
Photo of a dog tag that Ukraine says belong to Wagner Group mercenaries.
Photo of a dog tag that Ukraine says belong to Wagner Group mercenaries.
  • Ukraine has alleged that members of Russia's mercenary Wagner Group are fighting there.
  • Officials on Tuesday shared photos of a dog tag it said belonged to a member of the group who was killed.
  • Recent reports said Wagner Group agents were ordered to hunt and kill Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Ukraine's defence ministry posted photos of a dog tag it said belonged to one of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary group who were said to be charged with assassinating President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Wagnerists are already dying on the territory of Ukraine," the defence ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate wrote in a Tuesday Facebook post accompanying the photos.

The defence ministry did not say how many people had been killed or how many dog tags it had collected.

The photo of the dog tag showed, on one side, a website, a phone number with a Syrian country code, and an email address. The other side said "Please help and contact us" in English, French, and Arabic. 

The defence ministry said the dog tag was made for use in the Syrian war, which the US believes the Wagner Group was involved in. Multiple reports from 2017 and 2018 said the group was contracted by a Syrian state-owned oil company to capture and secure oil and gas fields from ISIS.

Insider was unable to access the website inscribed on the dog tag, and received an automated message saying the phone number was unavailable. 

Upon contacting the email address for a request for comment, Insider received an auto-reply that said:" This email address has been hijacked by Anonymous. You can respond, I am reading all emails. Glory to Ukraine!"

After asking who the email address belonged to, the person operating the account told Insider that they took over the email account after seeing the dog tag photos, and that it was not clear if it previously belonged to the Wagner Group.

In its Facebook post, the Ukrainian defence ministry said the Wagner Group was helping Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, and that some of its agents were "already participating in combat operations on the territory of Ukraine in the army of the aggressor."

It is not entirely clear who runs or finances the Wagner Group, but Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been most frequently linked to the organisation.

In 2020, the US Treasury said Prigozhin was "believed to be the financier" of the group. The European Parliament also described Prigozhin as having financial links to the group.

Multiple reports published in the run-up to and during Russia's invasion, including by the Daily Beast and The Times of London, said Wagner Group mercenaries were being dispatched to Ukraine.

The Times of London reported late last month that Russia ordered Wagner Group mercenaries in Kyiv to wipe out Zelenskyy's government, and offered them financial bonuses if they succeeded.

The Times reported last week that Ukraine had foiled at least three assassination attempts by the Wagner Group and Chechen special forces on Zelenskyy in the prior week, without giving specifics.

Zelenskyy previously warned that he was the "number one target" for Russia.

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