The Wagner group of Russian mercenaries is offering a reward of 15 million dollars (about 14.2 million euros) for the capture or elimination of Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto.
Italy’s intelligence agents discovered the bounty last week, before Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin hurled strong insults at Crosetto for his words about Russian mercenaries in Africa and stability. That is just the latest in a long line of Russian figures offending Crosetto, as well as other Italian officials.
The list includes Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president and vice president of the Security Council, who called minister Crosetto a “weird fool” and whose outbursts against “ungrateful” Italy are, according to the Italian intelligence community, the source of the bounty.
Many other Kremlin politicians and spokesmen, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Russian Ambassador to Italy Sergey Razov, and famed propagandist Vladimir Solovyov have also repeatedly attacked Italian institutions.
As the newspaper “Il Foglio” pointed out, intelligence officials believe that the Kremlin’s orders can be carried out through the Wagner Group itself. The mercenary team – and parastatal organ – has at least two cells in Europe, namely in the Balkans, moving between Serbia and Albania, and in the Baltic, based in Estonia.
Both have a few dozen members, and a smaller group could carry out missions elsewhere in Europe. The intelligence services of other countries, such as Poland or France, have reported similar fears.
This same newspaper has also reported that Crosetto did not increase his security team despite the threat.
Earlier this week, Crosetto accused the Wagner group of expelling immigrants from Africa, especially Libya, in retaliation for Rome’s support for Ukraine.