Putin's spokesman's son, Nikolai Peskov, 'joined Wagner in Ukraine

The 33-year-old son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claims he served in Ukraine for nearly six months with the Wagner mercenary organization.

Nikolai Peskov stated that It was his duty and he could not sit idly by and watch as his friends and others died. Wagner is referred to as a "private military company" in Russia and is now infamous worldwide for alleged war crimes and other abuses in Ukraine.

It has recruited thousands of prisoners from prisons after suffering significant losses. Sources were unable to confirm his claim to have served alongside Wagner, whose troops have been engaged in intense combat in Bakhmut for months.

It is uncommon for a member of the Russian elite to choose to join the organization, as many have fled the country to avoid conscription. Nikolai Peskov is also known as Nikolai Choles and speaks English fluently, having spent several years in London as a child. He has served as a correspondent for RT, the Russian state television network. 

He and his father are both subject to US sanctions. He claimed he used a fake ID to conceal his Kremlin connections from his Wagner comrades. The assertion by Nikolai Peskov coincides with a significant new army recruitment campaign, with Russian state advertisements urging men to perform their "patriotic duty" in the Ukraine conflict.

After President Vladimir Putin proclaimed a "partial mobilization" in September, tens of thousands of men fled Russia to avoid conscription. Nikolai Peskov did not specify where specifically he had served in the "special military operation" in Ukraine, as described by Russia.

Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, provided additional information in comments to the Russian media. Mr. Peskov's son, he said, underwent a three-week training programme after joining the group using forged identification.

Mr. Prigozhin stated that it was imperative to expand the combined artillery battalion after he left for Luhansk, so he was sent to join a Uragan [multiple rocket launcher] crew. He added that Dmitry Peskov demonstrated the same bravery and valor as everyone else.

This year, Nikolai Peskov received a bravery medal. In September of last year, he was the target of a live YouTube prank in which he appeared reluctant to enter the military.

In a phone call to Nikolai Peskov, journalist Dmitry Nizovtsev, an associate of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, posed as a military recruitment officer. Nizovtsev questioned him in an aggressive manner as to why he had not appeared at a Moscow call center. Nikolai uneasily responded, reminding Nizovtsev, "I am Mr. Peskov." 

He stated that he was going to escalate the issue and needed to know fundamental information about the situation and his legal rights. Mr. Prigozhin and a number of Russian military commentators have been extremely critical of Russian generals in Ukraine, accusing them of making mistakes and under-equipping Wagner. Mr. Prigozhin also accused military officials of ignoring the sacrifices of his group.

However, President Putin banned public criticism of Wagner or the regular armed forces last month. The maximum prison sentence for "discrediting" any component of the Russian military is seven years.