The Kyiv Post reported on April 21 that Moscow had launched a video campaign to encourage more of its citizens to volunteer for the Russian armed forces.

At almost the same time, Nikolai Peskov, the son of the Kremlin press secretary, gave an interview to the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, where he claimed that he had served for six months in Ukraine under an assumed name in the Wagner mercenary force. He said that he had taken part in combat operations and had been awarded with a Russian medal “For Courage.”

The claim appeared to have been confirmed by Wagner Group founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who, speaking through his press service, stated that Nikolai had served with a Wagner artillery unit in Ukraine.

Prigozhin stated that he had been approached by Peskov’s father, because the son wished to volunteer, but said that he advised him not to let his son serve in the regular army, as he “would have sat in the headquarters or gone as meat [for the grinder].”


Investigations into Peskov’s claims by a number of independent news outlets, however, have cast serious doubt on his assertion.

According to the Kommersant newspaper, Nikolai Peskov was born in Moscow in 1990, but lived in Britain, with his mother and British step-father, for more than a decade before returning to Russia. A number of sources indicate that he returned to Russia in 2010, where he served with the strategic rocket forces until 2012.

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In fact, it is now known that, during that period, he was actually serving a 15 months sentence in a young offenders’ institute in the UK, after being found guilty of attacking a teenager and stealing his mobile phone. It's possible the official version was an attempt to obscure another element of his checkered past.

Dmitry Nyzovtsev, an associate of the jailed activist Alexei Navalny and host of the “Popular Politics” internet channel, called Peskov’s son shortly after Putin's mobilization announcement on Sept. 21, 2022.


During the call, which was live streamed on YouTube, Nyzovtsev, who refers to Peskov by his stepfather’s surname “Choles,” pretended to be a Russian military official. He challenged Peskov/Choles about his preparedness to go to war in Ukraine. Peskov/Choles declined to report to the draft office but assured Nyzovtsev: “If I have to defend the motherland, don’t worry, I’ll be there.” When pressed for a more definite answer, Peskov/Choles said that he would not be going anywhere and would solve the “situation at a different level.”

A report in the Moscow Times, quoting the independent news outlet Meduza, said that further misgivings, about the truthfulness of his claim, had arisen after investigations involving Wagner fighters from the unit in which he supposedly served and acquaintances of Peskov/Choles.

Meduza quoted current and former artillerymen from the Wagner Group who are said to have told the VCHK-OGPU Telegram channel that Peskov/Choles had not been seen "either on the Soledar or Bakhmut fronts."

Friends of Peskov/Choles told the same source that they hadn’t noticed any long-term absence by him from Moscow. According to personal acquaintances he has lived the life of a playboy and those who know him say he has no intention of changing his lifestyle.


It was reported that, concerned about his son’s behavior, which had been highlighted by an investigation by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) in 2017, Dmitry Peskov found him employment at an IT company.

Perhaps even more damning evidence that the claim he had been in Ukraine was suspect was provided by the Russian independent news outlet, which claimed that a number of traffic offenses had been recorded against the Tesla Model X owned by Peskov/Choles at the same time as he was supposedly in Ukraine. The VCHK-OGPU Telegram channel posted screenshots from surveillance cameras that supported the allegation.

Another Telegram channel, Agentstvo, commented that Peskov's son may have committed a crime since, according to Prigozhin, he had used forged documents – possibly including a false passport – to register with the Wagner Group.

So, the question still remains, is Nikolai Peskov a “hero” or is this declaration of his having served in the “special military operation” more to do with encouraging the Russian youth to enlist? After all, if the son of one of Moscow’s “most elite” can fight, why shouldn’t you?


It has all the hallmarks of the sort of PR stunt for which his father, Dmitry Peskov, is renowned.

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