A high-profile Russian propagandist and hired gun was shot in the head at close range in eastern Ukraine over the weekend, according to multiple reports. The mercenary, Igor Mangushev, was injured at a checkpoint in the Russian-occupied region of Luhansk, and transported to a hospital.
“He is still alive, but with such an injury, the prospects are not very good,” a Ukrainian journalist wrote on Telegram.
The incident occurred early Saturday, according to the journalist, Denys Kazanskyi. Russian sources told The New Voice of Ukraine that Mangushev had been the victim of an “accident,” which the outlet characterized as an “execution-style” shooting.
Photos purporting to show a bandaged and bloodied Mangushev lying in a hospital bed were shared on Telegram by a friend and colleague, Boris Rozhkin. He wrote that Mangushev was attacked in Stakhanov, and that doctors had concluded he had been shot with a handgun, according to The Telegraph.
Russian authorities did not immediately confirm the attack or its details.
Igor Mangushev, the Russian neo-Nazi who held up a skull of a Ukrainian soldier during a metal concert and said the Ukrainian now burns in hell, has himself been shot in the head behind the frontlines in Luhansk.
He is in critical condition.
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) February 5, 2023
Mangushev, 36, is a captain in the Russian army who goes by the callsign “Bereg.” He boasts reputed links not only to neo-Nazi groups, but also to the notoriously vicious private mercenary group Wagner and its founder-fiancier, Yevgeny Prigozhin, having done disinformation work for companies ensconced within Prigozhin’s media and consulting empire.
“I think we can safely describe this as a hit,” tweeted Mark Galeotti, a London-based political scientist and expert in Russian security affairs. “Was this about him or a proxy attack on Prigozhin? Obviously at this stage, impossible to say.”
In a thread analyzing the situation, Galeotti concluded that “his could be a warning, or taking a pawn off the board, or a sign that Prigozhin's more thuggish rivals feel he is weakened enough that they can move.”
An established face of the Russian invasion’s agitprop campaigns, Mangushev is perhaps best known for a fiery speech last summer in which he held what he claimed was the skull of a Ukrainian soldier. “We’re alive, and this guy’s already dead,” he told a crowd. “Let him burn in hell. He wasn’t lucky. We’ll make a goblet out of his skull.”
He has also asserted that he and his associates came up with “Z” symbol of support for the Russian invasion, according to The Telegraph, though there is little evidence to substantiate his claim.