The Kremlin-affiliated leader of the notorious Wagner mercenary group said Wednesday that he sent a sledgehammer to the European Parliament to be delivered as a dark reminder of the gruesome murder of a combatant.
Yevgeny Prigozhin’s threatening gesture came as the EU parliament prepared to condemn Wagner in a non-binding resolution after labeling Russia as “state sponsor of terrorism.”
Prigozhin’s firm Concord said he had discussed the expected EU parliament vote with Wagner commanders and decided to respond with what he described as a “case of information”.
Video to arise later on Wednesday, he showed an associate of Prigozhin brandishing a violin case containing a sledgehammer inscribed “PMC Wagner” on its head and artificial bloodstains on the handle.
The weapon is a nod to another video released this month that featured a self-described Wagner deserter beaten to death with a sledgehammer after being recaptured.
Prigozhin initially praised the apparent murder of the fighter, but later refused Wagner’s involvement, instead blaming US secret services without providing evidence.
The sledgehammer was given to a pro-war military blogging outfit previously mentioned by the Russian media linked to the so-called “troll farm” of Prigozhin.
“The information case to be sent to the European Parliament has been handed over to a representative of Cyber Front Z,” Concord said in a short statement posted on social media.
Cyber Front Z appeared on the Telegram messaging app in the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a recruiting pitch for IT specialists and designers, as well as “social media commentators” and “spammers.” It currently has over 100,000 subscribers on its pro-war channel.
The Gulagu.net Prisoners’ Rights Project identified the person filmed delivering the case as St. Petersburg-based Wagner lawyer Igor Yeliseyev.
The EU Parliament will do that to vote Thursday on a resolution condemning Wagner’s “heinous crimes” and urging Russia to withdraw its members from eastern Ukraine and annex Crimea.
The European Parliament website was hit by a cyber attack on Wednesday claimed by pro-Russian hackers shortly after the “state sponsor of terrorism” resolution.
Russia’s human rights commissioner has said investigating authorities were verifying the authenticity of the video showing the Wagner deserter – who was convicted before being recruited – killed.
Prigozhin was filmed personally recruiting prisoners across Russia to join Wagner to fight in Ukraine this summer.
He admitted to founding Wagner in September 2014 after years of denying ties to the shadowy mercenary organization whose fighters have been seen in conflict zones around the world.