The death of an Iraqi Wagner mercenary in Ukraine was confirmed today by the founder of the Russian organization Yevgeny Prigozhin to the Reuters agency. He is the first citizen of a Middle Eastern country to be killed in the war in Ukraine.

Abbas Abutar Whitwit breathed his last on April 7, a day after being admitted to a hospital in the Russian-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the RIA FAN website reported. According to the information he transmits, Abbas was injured during the clashes in Bakhmut, the city in the Ukrainian Donetsk region that was captured by Russian forces after months of fierce fighting.

The battle to capture Bakhmut involved many ex-convicts recruited by Russia’s Wagner with the lure of a pardon if they survived six months of the Ukrainian war.

Prigozhin confirmed to Reuters that Abbas was a convict recruited by Wagner to fight in Ukraine. He was not the only Arab who came out of prison for this purpose, he added. Abbas’s death was “heroic”, claimed the head of the Russian mercenary company.

In a video published by RIA FAN, a man said to be the father of the Iraqi mercenary can be seen receiving a medal of valor and applauding his son’s decision to fight as a “volunteer” alongside the Russian invaders in Ukraine.

According to court documents cited by Reuters, Abbas was a first-year student arrested on drug charges and in July 2021 was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison by a court in the Russian city of Kazan.