Notorious Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin asked POLITICO for help equipping his private army Wagner with Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters.
In a sarcastic way voice message delivered in response to a request for comment, Prigozhin also sought assistance in obtaining US-made sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers.
« I ask you to speak to your contacts so we can get these supplies, » said Prigozhin, whose mercenaries fought on the front lines of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“I have one more request for you,” Prigozhin continued. “So: F-35. If it is possible, as we have discussed above, purchase supplies through New Zealand. They might need to refuel in Hawaii, but I don’t really foresee a problem.
Prigozhin’s statement seemed intended as a joke: It was delivered in a jovial and ironic tone that was in complete contrast to the furious and profanity-laden tirades he unleashed against Russian military leaders over the supply problems of his forces.
POLITICO contacted Prigozhin as part of an investigation that found evidence that the manufacturer of the Russian Orsis T-5000 rifle used by his men had purchased ammunition from an American company.
In an apparent denial, he replied that Wagner, who recently captured the city of Bakhmut after a months-long bloody battle, had « a huge amount of NATO ammunition left over from the Ukrainian army ».
« I’m sure you know Viktor »
In the two-and-a-half-minute recording posted on his Kepka Prigozhina Telegram channel, Prigozhin also gave an introduction to Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer released last December from the United States in a prisoner exchange with professional basketball player Brittney Greiner.
“I’m sure you know Viktor Bout well,” Prigozhin said. “I have already spoken to him: he is ready to handle all deliveries. But suppose you are part of this dialogue from the United States of America. »
“So, I shake your hand, thank you very much for the questions and I hope you answer me. Obviously, on F-35 deliveries, reply in a private message”.
And, in a farewell shot, Prigozhin said: “Douglas, man, I completely forgot about it! If the deal goes through, my personal Orsis [rifle] it will be my gift to you.
Additional reporting by Zoya Sheftalovich and Emma Krstic.