The son of Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said in an interview published on Saturday that he had served in Ukraine under an assumed name as an artilleryman in the Wagner mercenary force, the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported.
Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has triggered one of the deadliest European conflicts since World War Two and the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
As many as 354,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured in the Ukraine war which is grinding towards a protracted conflict that may last well beyond 2023, according to a trove of US intelligence documents posted online.
Nikolai Peskov, the 33-year-old son of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, told the privately-owned newspaper that he had served in Ukraine, a rare, public example of the son of a senior Russian official fighting in the war.
"It was on my initiative," Peskov, whose father has served as Putin's spokesman since 2008, said in an interview. "I considered it my duty."
He said that he had served out his contract for a little under half a year under an assumed name to hide his true identity. He received a medal for bravery, the newspaper said.
Asked about his father's views of his service, Nikolai said: "He's proud of me, I think. My father told me that I made the right decision."
Wagner's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Dmitry Peskov had approached him and asked him to take his son on as an artilleryman.
"Of all my acquaintances, just one person, Dmitry Sergeyvich Peskov, who at one time was reputed to be an absolute liberal, sent his son. He came to me and said: 'Take him on as a simple artilleryman,'" Prigozhin said in a video posted on Telegram.
Nikolai Peskov was born in 1990 and lived in Britain in the decade following the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, according to the Kommersant newspaper. He then returned to Russia and served in the strategic rocket forces from 2010 to 2012.
In 2022, an associate of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny pretending to be a Russian military official phoned up Peskov junior and demanded he report to a draft office. Peskov told him that he would not be going anywhere and would solve the situation at a different level, according to a recording of the call posted online.
Dmitry Peskov, who served in the foreign ministry in Moscow and abroad before rising through the Kremlin, was sanctioned by the United States shortly after the war, along with his wife and two adult children, Nikolai and Elizaveta, according to the US Treasury.