A shocking video of a Russian mercenary playing with the skull of a Ukrainian fighter while declaring the objective of killing as many Ukrainian soldiers as needed to "de-Ukrainize Ukraine" was published by Ukrainian journalist and writer Denis Kazansky on Sunday.
WARNING: Graphic video below
The fighter, identified as Moscow native Igor Mangushev by Kazansky, gave a speech in what appeared to be a club, holding the skull in the fashion that William Shakespeare's Hamlet held the skull of Yorick.
"We're alive, and this guy's already dead," Mangushev reportedly said. "Let him burn in hell. He wasn't lucky. We'll make a goblet out of his skull."
"We don't care how many, we have to kill them."Igor Mangushev
"We must de-Ukrainize Ukraine"
Mangushev explained that "We are not at war with people of blood and flesh. We are at war with the idea. With the idea of Ukraine as an anti-Russian state. There can be no peace. We must de-Ukrainize Ukraine. We must return our Russian lands."
Russian mercenary Igor Mangushev (Bereg) made a performance with the skull of a Ukrainian soldier killed near Azovstal.In his speech, Mangushev said that Russia is at war with the Ukrainian idea, so all Ukrainians must be killed.Still think trading with Russia is a good idea? pic.twitter.com/qpnWS5JCeV— Денис Казанський (@den_kazansky) August 28, 2022
Three days before the Russia-Ukraine War began, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech questioning the idea of Ukraine as a nation distinct from Russia, as well as outlying the historical claims of Russia to Ukrainian territories. On February 22, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov further questioned Ukraine's right to sovereignty.
Since 2014, Russia has been backing pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and has recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics therein. However, Russia has begun taking the steps to hold annexation referendums in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia, including land beyond Donbas.
Putin has also described the objective of "de-Nazification" to be driving what his government has called "a special military operation."
"We'll make a goblet out of his skull."Igor Mangushev
At war with the idea of Ukraine
Since Russia is fighting a war against an idea, Mangushev determined that "this is the tragedy of Ukrainian soldiers. We don't care how many, we have to kill them...We are at war with the idea, so all bearers of an idea must be killed. Like this guy," he said staring at the skull in his hand.
When asked if he was certain that the skull didn't belong to a civilian, Mangushev explained that "This is definitely not a civilian, we killed him ourselves" near Azovstal.
Azovstal was a metallurgical plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the Sea of Azov. Azovstal served as a fortress for Ukrainian fighters, the last holdout in the city until it was surrendered after a long siege on May 16.
Mercenaries and war crimes
Kazansky wrote that the video showed that "The Russian military openly calls for massacres and takes pride in torturing and killing Ukrainians," which discredits the denials by Russian authorities that their army has engaged in war crimes such as those in Bucha.
In April, when Russian forces withdrew from areas near Ukraine following their failed Kyiv push, hundreds of corpses of civilians were found in the town of Bucha, where it was alleged by locals that Russian military personnel had performed mass executions.
Mercenaries have been in regular use in the Russia-Ukraine War. The Wagner PMC has been fighting on the frontlines against Ukraine, supplementing Russian soldiers and even aircrews. While it has suffered casualties during the hostilities, Wagner has earned notoriety during the conflict. The company has allegedly been active in criminal enterprises such as gold smuggling from Africa and combat in Syria, and is tied to the Russian government through its leadership.
Other mercenaries have reportedly been hired from Syria, Libya, and Serbia to bolster the ranks of Russia's forces.
On July 11, Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office estimated that Russian forces were responsible for 22,504 war crimes in Ukraine since the invasion began on February 24. The Ukrainian human rights NGO ZMINA has asserted that the systemic nature of the war crimes indicates that these crimes are part of a Russian military strategy to destroy Ukraine.