The head of the Russian paramilitary company Yevgeny Prigozhin told CNN on Thursday that he has handed over to Ukraine the body of a retired US Army Special Forces soldier who was killed in the battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
In a response to CNN asking if Wagner had returned the body of Retired Army Sgt. Nicholas Maimer As Prigozhin promised last week, Prigozhin said in an audio recording: “Today at 3:00 p.m. we handed over the body of the American Nicholas Maimer to the Ukrainian side.”
In a video shared with CNN by Prigozhin’s press service, Wagner’s boss stands over two coffins, one draped with an American flag and the other with a Turkish flag, saying: “The American died in the battle at the ‘nest’”, one of the last disputed areas in western Bakhmut, adding that the second coffin contained the body of a Turkish national who was in Bakhmut with his female partner.
“They were found under the ruins of a building, or more accurately he and his documents. When the Ukrainians withdrew, they blew up the building and died under the destroyed building. We could not get her out, but we got him out, and he will return to his homeland, ”Prigozhin says about Turkish citizens.
CNN cannot independently verify the location in the video or the date it was filmed.
Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War confirmed to CNN that Maimer’s body, along with the body of a Turkish national, had been returned to Ukraine on Thursday during a prisoner of war exchange. A video shared by the group showed a coffin draped in an American flag that matched the coffin seen in the video with Prigozhin.
CNN cannot independently confirm that the coffin contained Maimer’s body or the circumstances in which he died.
Maimer’s decades in uniform: According to Maimer’s service record provided to CNN, he served more than 20 years in uniform before retiring in 2018. according to his service log provided to CNN.
He served more than two years in the military on active duty, leaving in December 1998; he then joined the National Guard in November 2000 and served for about 18 years among three different Guard units before retiring in December 2018.
His awards and decorations include the Special Forces Tab, the Army Commendation Medal, and four Army Achievement Medals.
His uncle Paul Maimer told the Idaho Statesman that his nephew had gone to Ukraine “as a humanitarian trying to do good for this world” and that the family wanted to take him home for a “proper burial.”
“I think he deserves to be laid to rest in a veterans cemetery,” he told the Statesman. “He may not have been fighting for our country, but he was fighting for the right reasons.”
CNN’s Josh Pennington, Sandi Sidhu, Jennifer Hansler, Haley Britzky and Alex Marquardt contributed to this post.