The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group displayed what he claimed to be the body and identification documents of a former US Army Green Beret who he said was killed fighting on the side of Ukraine in Bakhmut.
In a graphic nighttime video that was shared on the Wagner Group’s Telegram channel Tuesday, Yevgeny Prigozhin leads pro-Russian war blogger Alexander Simonov to a shelter on the western side of Bakhmut and shows him the body of a man lying motionless on his back with a visible injury to the right side of his partially exposed torso.
Prigozhin shows what appears to be the slain soldier’s US-issued ID card with his photo and reads aloud his name, “Nicholas.”
The Idaho Statesman reported Tuesday that the man in the video is 45-year-old Army Special Forces veteran Nick Maimer, who had spent the past year in Ukraine training civilian volunteers.
“So we will hand him over to the United States of America, we’ll put him in a coffin, drape him with the American flag with respect because he did not die in his bed as a grandpa but he died at war and most likely a worthy [death], right?” Prigozhin says.
Another Wagner mercenary chimes in that the man died returning fire as he tried to retreat.
“He was shooting back, he died in battle, so we will hand over his documents tomorrow morning and pack up his body, right?” Prigozhin adds.
Bakhmut has seen some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict, with Wagner mercenaries spearheading the months-long campaign to capture the strategically important city in eastern Ukraine.
Over the past week, Ukrainian forces have made their most significant gains in six months in and around Bakhmut after routing a brigade of Russian regulars.
In a separate Telegram post, the Wagner Group identified the slain US citizen as Nicholas Dwain Maimer, a resident of Boise, Idaho, and displayed his driver’s license, a US Army identification card indicating his rank of staff sergeant, and his VA card.
A post accompanying the photos described Maimer as “yet another victim of the ‘Bakhmut meat grinder,’ into which Ukrainian commanders have been forced to throw not only cannon fodder from territorial defense and conscripts, but also such precious resources as special forces units and foreign mercenaries.”
The Idaho Statesman reported that Maimer’s uncle, Paul Maimer, and Perry Blackburn, who helped recruit the veteran to Kyiv a year ago, both positively identified him in the video from Bakhmut.
“He went over there as a humanitarian trying to do good for this world,” the uncle told the newspaper, saying that his nephew was tenacious and accomplished many goals in his 45 years.
Blackburn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who currently runs a nonprofit organization in Kyiv, told the Statesman that Maimer was killed when a Russian artillery shell struck a building where he was positioned.
“From what I understand, he was providing [Ukrainians] with firsthand training in that area so that they can continue to do the fight, and he got caught behind enemy lines,” Blackburn said.
Maimer retired from the Army in 2018 after 20 years of service, part of which he spent in the elite Special Forces, commonly known as the “Green Berets.”
As a civilian, Maimer initially worked in the IT sector but in 2022 moved to Spain to teach English, he previously told the Idaho Statesman.
When Russia invaded Ukraine that February, Maimer said he felt like he needed to help Ukrainians uphold democracy in their country and decamped to Kyiv.
“It’s really obvious to everybody that it’s an unjustified invasion,” he told the publication in a phone interview in June 2022. “So I felt like my moral compass just pointed me toward it.”
The State Department has not confirmed Maimer’s death but acknowledged reports that an American citizen had been killed in Bakhmut.
“Our ability to verify reports of deaths of US citizens in Ukraine is extremely limited,” a spokesperson said. “We offer our condolences to the families of all whose lives have been lost as a result of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine.”
Maimer is at least the tenth US citizen to have died in Ukraine since the start of the war.
Earlier this month, Chris Campbell, from Florida, was laid to rest in Kyiv a month after he was killed in Bakhmut while fighting as part of the International Legion of Ukraine.