Russian mercenary group claims body of British man missing in Ukraine found

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A Russian mercenary group has claimed the body of one of two British men who went missing in eastern Ukraine last week has been found.

Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28, were last seen on 6 January heading to the town of Soledar, where fighting has been especially fierce in recent days. There has been no contact with the pair since they left Kramatorsk at 8am on Friday.

They had been voluntary workers sent to Ukraine to support humanitarian efforts.

Andrew Bagshaw (left) and Christopher Parry (right) were last seen leaving the town of Kramatorsk on Friday

In a statement, Russia’s Wagner group claimed it had found the body of one of the two men. It did not mention the name of the dead man but said documents belonging to both Britons had been found on his body.

A photo posted alongside the statement appeared to show passports bearing the names of Mr Bagshaw and Mr Parry. The claims have not yet been confirmed.

“Today the body of one of them was found. Documents for both Britons were discovered with him,” said the statement, without giving details on where the body was discovered.

The Wagner group was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to President Vladimir Putin.

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are supporting the families of two British men who have gone missing in Ukraine.”

The route the pair were supposed to take, seen by The Independent on Monday, skirts the edge of the town close to Russian positions and may have actually entered areas engulfed by a moving frontline, as Moscow launched a major assault.

Ukrainian police said on Monday they were looking for the pair who went missing in east Ukraine, the scene of heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Mr Parry was reportedly born in Truro, Cornwall, but later moved to Cheltenham, while the British-born Mr Bagshaw is believed to be a resident of New Zealand.

On Tuesday, Mr Parry’s parents released a statement via the UK foreign office in which they expressed their concern for the “health and whereabouts” of the missing volunteer.

The two men were last seen heading for the town of Soledar, where fighting has been especially brutal of late

“He is an extraordinary person who is compassionate and caring and would not be dissuaded from his work in Ukraine liberating elderly and disabled people, which we are very proud of.

“We, his family and partner, all love him very much and would be grateful if our privacy could be respected at this difficult time,” they said.

A statement on behalf of Mr Bagshaw’s parents said: “Andrew is a very intelligent, independently minded person, who went there as a volunteer to assist the people of Ukraine, believing it to be the morally right thing to do.

“Andrew’s parents love him dearly and are immensely proud of all the work he has been doing delivering food and medicines and assisting elderly people move from near the battlefront of the war.”

Earlier today, Mr Prigozhin claimed the Wagner mercenary group had completed a takeover of the Soledar, which if confirmed would mark Russia’s first major military success since last summer.

“Wagner units have taken the whole territory of Soledar under control,” he said in an audio message posted to Telegram channel.

“Civilians were withdrawn. Ukrainian units that did not want to surrender were destroyed.”

Soledar lies at a strategic point six miles north of the city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces want to surround

President Volodymyr Zelensky weighed in on the claims during his nightly video address on Wednesday, insisting Ukrainian forces in the area were holding out against the Russians.

“Now the terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to pretend that some part of our city of Soledar – a city that was almost completely destroyed by the occupiers – is allegedly some kind of Russia’s achievement,” he said.