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Russian media: American pro-Kremlin fighter, propagandist killed in Donetsk Oblast

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 19, 2024 8:33 PM 2 min read
American pro-Kremlin fighter and propagandist Russell Bentley in a photo posted on X on April 4, 2024. (Russell Bentley/X) 
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Russell Bentley, a pro-Kremlin American man who fought against Ukraine in 2014, was killed in Russian-occupied Donetsk Oblast, Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan claimed on Telegram on April 19. Bentley had previously been reported as missing.

Simonyan did not provide any details on his death, and the Kyiv Independent cannot verify the news.

Bentley, age 64, was a U.S. military veteran and self-identified supporter of Russian occupation forces in Ukraine.

Local occupation authorities claimed Bentley went missing on April 8 after a district in occupied Donetsk Oblast was shelled by Ukrainian troops. His wife reportedly told the Mash Telegram channel that he went to see if other residents needed help after the strikes and never returned.

Bentley's wife then claimed that he had been abducted by Russian soldiers amid allegations that he was spying for the U.S.

Bentley originally took up arms with Russian proxy forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014, fighting against the Ukrainian military during Russia's invasion of Donbas under the call sign "Texas," according to Russian state media.

Bentley then reportedly left the army to produce propaganda videos for Russia's state-owned Sputnik news agency and obtained Russian citizenship.

Rolling Stone released a controversial interview with Bentley in March 2022, where he described how he shifted his political beliefs toward communism.

Bentley was also a convicted felon in the U.S., having been charged with drug trafficking in the 1990s. He briefly served time in prison before allegedly escaping in 1999 and remained a fugitive for almost 10 years before he was recaptured and put back in prison.

In the Rolling Stone interview and other media appearances, Bentley referred to himself as an "information warrior" and repeated Russian propaganda talking points about Ukraine and the West.

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