The head of the Russian paramilitary firm Yevgeny Prigozhin told CNN on Thursday that he has turned over the body of a retired US Army Special Forces soldier killed in the battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to Ukraine.
In a response to CNN asking if Wagner found the body of retired army staff Sgt. Nicholas Maimer, as promised by Prigozhin last week, Prigozhin said in an audio recording, “Today at 3:00 pm we handed over the body of American Nicholas Maimer to the Ukrainian side.”
In a video shared with CNN by Prigozhin’s press office, Wagner’s boss stands next to two coffins, one draped with an American flag and one with a Turkish flag, and says: “The American died in battle in the ‘nest ‘” — one of the last disputed areas in western Bakhmut — adding that the second coffin contained the body of a Turkish citizen who was in Bakhmut with his female partner.
“They were found under the ruins of a building, or rather he and his documents. When the Ukrainians retreated, they blew up the building and died under the destroyed building. We couldn’t get her out, but we got him out and will return to his motherland,” Prigozhin said of the Turkish citizens.
CNN cannot independently verify the location in the video or the shooting date.
Ukraine’s Prisoner of War Coordination Headquarters confirmed to CNN that Maimer’s body, along with the body of a Turkish national, had been returned to Ukraine in a POW exchange on Thursday. A video shared by the group showed a coffin covered in an American flag that matched the coffin seen in the video with Prigozhin.
CNN cannot independently confirm that the coffin contains Maimer’s body, or the circumstances in which he died.
Maimer’s Decades in Uniform: According to the service record provided to CNN by Maimer, he served in uniform for over 20 years before retiring in 2018, according to his service record provided to CNN.
He served in the military on active duty for over two years, leaving in December 1998; he subsequently joined the National Guard in November 2000 and served between three different Guard units for approximately 18 years before retiring in December 2018.
Among his honors and awards are the Special Forces Tab, Army Commendation Medal, and four Army Achievement Medals.
His uncle Paul Maimer told the Idaho statesman that his cousin 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 rest in a veteran’s cemetery,” he told the Statesman. “He may not have fought for our country, but he fought for all the right reasons.”
CNN’s Josh Pennington, Sandi Sidhu, Jennifer Hansler, Haley Britzky and Alex Marquardt contributed to this entry.