Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has been linked to a Russian mercenary group, lashed out at “Western civilization” and denied Russian atrocities in a Wednesday report.
Prigozhin, considered one of Russia’s oligarchs, allegedly finances the shadowy Wagner Group, a mercenary army linked to the Kremlin that has been accused of crimes in Ukraine, Syria and Africa.
He told the UK’s The Guardian newspaper in a Wednesday report that the West is backing terror groups in Africa but is ultimately facing defeat as a dying civilization.
The newspaper had sought Prigozhin’s response to allegations Wagner mercenaries are fighting alongside the Malian army against rebels and have killed hundreds of civilians.
“Any terrorist killed by the Malian army, the collective West tried to pass off as a civilian,” he said.
Regarding the alleged atrocities, “neither I, nor the men I know, nor the Malian army have committed them,” he said.
“You are a dying-out Western civilization that considers Russians, Malians, Central Africans, Cubans, Nicaraguans and many other peoples and countries to be third-world scum,” he said.
“You are a pathetic, endangered bunch of perverts, and there are many of us, billions of us. And victory will be ours,” he said.
Prigozhin accused “the collective West, namely the USA, Britain, France and other countries trying to pursue a policy of enslaving Africa, have been planting and organizing terrorist groups in Mali for years.”
This, he said, was being done “in order to keep the population of this country in fear, to plunder its natural wealth and to write off the money allocated for so-called peacekeeping operations.”
Prigozhin stressed he has “repeatedly said that the Wagner Group does not exist” and also claimed he had “nothing to do” with the organization.
The businessman also turned on The Guardian, accusing it of spreading “fakes, outright lies” and “falsification” while aiming to “spit in the face of me, the Russian patriots, and the Malian people.”
“There is a proverb: ‘Don’t try to piss against the wind, you will get drowned in the splash,’” he said. “These atrocities are committed in your inflamed brain, infected with the disease called ‘Nazism.’”
Moscow has said its invasion of Ukraine, which has been condemned by the West, is aimed at the “de-Nazification” of eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday admitted to an Italian television network that Wagner is operating in Mali and Libya, but claimed its presence “has nothing to do with the Russian state” and was a commercial operation, The Guardian reported.
The United States identifies Wagner’s financier as Prigozhin, an oligarch who is close to the Russian president and is sometimes called “Putin’s chef” for his flashy restaurants that are favored by the Russian leader.
Prigozhin, whose stepfather was of Jewish descent, was charged by the US government with trying to influence the 2016 US presidential election, and the Wagner Group is the subject of US and European Union sanctions.
Prigozhin has also been reported to run a sprawling Russian media empire, controlling more than a dozen news portals in Russia that attract tens of millions of visitors and serve as an important state propaganda weapon.
According to a 2020 investigation by Bellingcat, The Insider, and Der Spiegel, Prigozhin’s operations “are tightly integrated with Russia’s Defense Ministry and its intelligence arm, the GRU.”
Since the beginning of the year, several European countries have denounced the presence of Wagner’s Russian mercenaries, estimated to be about 1,000, who fight alongside Malian soldiers. They have been blamed for killing about 300 civilians in the central town of Moura. They have also been blamed for staging burials of bodies near the Gossi military base and trying to blame French military forces for the graves.
However, Mali’s ruling junta denies that Wagner’s forces are fighting in the country, saying instead that they are training Malian soldiers as part of cooperation between Mali and Russia.
The Wagner Group sends mercenary forces, many former Russian military soldiers, to several African countries and other places including Ukraine and the Mideast. Although the Kremlin officially denies any connection to Wagner, the group is strategically used to further Putin’s ambitions to increase Russia’s influence and undermine democracy, analysts say.