Update: Wagner mercenary group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin released a video purporting to show the transfer of Special Forces veteran Nick Maimer’s body after he was killed in Ukraine.
🇷🇺🇺🇦🇺🇸🇹🇷 Prigozhin published a video from the transfer of the bodies of the US citizen Nicholas Meymer, who died in Artemovsk (Bakhmut), and a Turkish citizen. pic.twitter.com/69kIWQFvc5— Sinnaig (@Sinnaig) May 25, 2023
Kevin Fixler, Sally Krutzig
A retired U.S. military veteran from Idaho helping Ukraine combat Russia’s invasion is believed to have been killed on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
Nick Maimer, 45, of Boise, had for the last year been training civilian volunteers in Ukraine’s ongoing effort to defend its borders. Maimer, a former Army Green Beret, died when a Russian artillery shell destroyed a building where he was positioned during intensified fighting in the city of Bakhmut, according to Perry Blackburn, who helped recruit Maimer to Kyiv last May.
“From what I understand, he was providing them with firsthand training in that area so that they can continue to do the fight, and he got caught behind enemy lines,” Blackburn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, told the Idaho Statesman by phone. “It’s just a crazy, crazy time right now. And then having Nick die over there, it’s just brutal.”
A video posted Tuesday by a pro-Russian military blogger on Telegram shows Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Russian private military company Wagner, surveying a body in what appears to be Bakhmut, CNN reported. U.S. documents belonging to Maimer appear to be shown in the video.
Blackburn and Maimer’s uncle, Paul Maimer, each identified the body in the video as Maimer’s, they told the Statesman on Tuesday.
“He never let anything in front of him stop his goals,” Paul Maimer told the Statesman by phone. “He persevered through a lot in his life. I had the utmost respect for him. A lot of people can learn from who he was and what he had accomplished in his short life. In 45 years, he lived a lot. He went over there as a humanitarian trying to do good for this world.”
Russia stepped up shelling in the past days in Bakhmut, a city at the eastern front of the Russia-Ukraine war. The State Department could not confirm Maimer’s death, but acknowledged hearing word of an American killed in warfare in Ukraine.
“We are aware of the reports of the death of a U.S. citizen in Bakhmut and are seeking additional information,” a State Department official said. “Our ability to verify reports of deaths of U.S. citizens in Ukraine is extremely limited. We offer our condolences to the families of all whose lives have been lost as a result of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine.”
Maimer’s death would mark at least the ninth American killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighboring country in February 2022, a U.S. official said, on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
“We’re just trying to get him home for proper burial,” Paul Maimer said. “I think he’s deserving to be put to rest in a veterans cemetery. He might not have been fighting for our country, but he was fighting for the right reasons.”
Retired U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Nick Maimer was a 20-year military veteran, including time spent serving in the Army Special Forces, and a 1995 graduate of Borah High School in Boise, he previously told the Statesman. After retiring from the Army in 2018, Maimer worked in the IT department for the Saint Alphonsus Health System, he said.
Just two months before Russia invaded Ukraine, Maimer moved to Spain to teach English, he said. After Russia invaded — what President Vladimir Putin has continued to call a “special military operation” in its neighbor state — Maimer told the Statesman he felt compelled to join the effort to uphold democracy. He had his family ship his combat gear to Poland, Maimer said.
“It’s really obvious to everybody that it’s an unjustified invasion,” he said in a phone interview in June 2022. “So I felt like my moral compass just pointed me toward it.”
In May 2022, Maimer showed up in Kyiv to join Blackburn, founder of the nonprofit AFGFree, which worked to get supplies into Ukraine and helped with evacuations. Maimer was committed to remaining in Ukraine for the foreseeable future, he said.
“I’m out here indefinitely as long as I’m still useful, I think,” Maimer told the Statesman. “I’m used to an acceptable amount of risk. I say my stress inoculation is pretty high.”
Last year, Maimer met U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, in downtown Kyiv. Risch, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Ukraine to see the war’s destruction and to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“He’s providing a service that Ukrainians really need, to a lot of volunteers trying to provide for their fellow Ukrainians,” Risch told the Statesman at the time. “It’s kind of a mixed bag, with some who are competent, and some who are not. But my judgment of what he’s doing is, it’s very much appreciated and much needed.”
The State Department urged Americans to exit Ukraine.
“We reiterate our message that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russia’s security officials,” the State Department official said. “U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.”
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