A Russian fighter who took part in the 2014 separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine has been killed on the battlefield, the independent news website The Insider reported Thursday, citing the Ukrainian military and pro-war Russian bloggers.
Alexander Mozhayev was killed in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, parts of which were captured by Russian forces during their 2022 invasion and where fighting is still ongoing, according to Ukrainian army colonel Anatoly Stefan.
Mozhayev was known by the callsign Babai (Russian for “boogeyman”).
He gained notoriety for taking part in the annexation of Crimea and the brief seizure of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk by pro-Russian separatists in April-July 2014.
Ukrainian authorities had claimed at the time that Mozhayev’s likeness to a man who was photographed wearing the insignia of Russia’s GRU military intelligence during the 2008 invasion of Georgia proved Russia’s involvement in the 2014 separatist conflict.
Mozhayev denied that claim in an April 2014 profile in Time magazine.
Time identified Mozhayev as a fugitive from Russian law enforcement who hailed from southwestern Russia’s Krasnodar region, a stronghold of Cossack fighters.
Russia’s The Insider news outlet said Mozhayev had been a part of the Cossack unit “Volchya Sotnya” (“100 Wolves”).
In 2005, The Insider said Mozhayev was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug trafficking but was released on parole five years later.
There were no other details surrounding the circumstances of Mozhayev’s death, which could not be independently verified.