Yevgeny Prigozhin is fuming — again.
This time he was triggered by the French parliament designating his Wagner Group of mercenaries as a terrorist organization — and on Wednesday he threatened French President Emmanuel Macron directly.
Responding to a question from Russian journalists, Prigozhin claimed that Wagner was saving people in Central Africa — where Wagner has gained a strong foothold and squeezed France’s presence in the region — from French soldiers, who “simply mocked them.”
“We can pull out rotten teeth from those bad mouths with pliers,” Prigozhin added. “We can pull out Macron’s teeth and, generally, everyone’s teeth who spill pathogenic filth (about Wagner).”
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On Tuesday, French lawmakers called on the EU to register Wagner on the bloc’s list of terrorist groups and enforce more legal tools to make Wagner’s financial activity in Europe impossible. The EU sanctioned Prigozhin himself in April last year.
“They aren’t just mercenaries, there’s a will to massacre civilians for political gain … to destabilize institutions,” Benjamin Haddad, an MP belonging to Macron’s Renaissance party, told POLITICO ahead of the Tuesday vote.
Wagner mercenaries have taken an active role in the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine despite the ongoing public political conflict between Prigozhin and Russian defense officials.
The paramilitary group is mostly involved in the Bakhmut battle, which has become a grim stalemate between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Wagner has allegedly recorded numerous videos showing the torture and even decapitation of prisoners of war. In April, two former Wagner commanders and ex-convicts admitted to killing Ukrainian civilians and children on Prigozhin’s orders. In 2022, the mercenaries recorded a video in which they allegedly executed their own soldier with a sledgehammer, after accusing him of collaborating with Ukrainian forces.
POLITICO could not independently verify the videos posted by Wagner. However, in November 2022, Prigozhin sent a sledgehammer to the European Parliament in response to some members moving to label Wagner a terrorist organization.
Clea Caulcutt contributed reporting.