Wagner mercenary group starts selling its famous sledgehammers as home decorations
Furniture shops in Moscow have started selling Wagner Group-branded sledgehammers as home decorations.
The metal sledgehammers are etched with the mercenary fighters’ logo, as well as a pile of skulls - and come in a presentation box that resembles a coffin.
The Russian Telegram channel Caution, Moscow quoted home decorations managers as saying that there was “high demand” for the sledgehammers, which are described as “perfect accessories in loft conversions”.
Wagner mercenaries have been accused of war crimes and are known to have bludgeoned to death deserters in Ukraine and captives in Syria with sledgehammers.
Last year, the group tried to intimidate MPs at the European Parliament by sending them a sledgehammer covered with fake blood.
The decorative sledgehammer is part of a boom in Wagner merchandise and is a testament to the group’s strong branding.
Once shunned for its brutality, Wagner is now seen as a winning brand in Russia. It has led Russia's fight in Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where Russian forces are advancing.
From 2014, the Kremlin had used it as a deniable asset to carry out its dirty work in the Middle East and Africa. However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wagner has become mainstream.
This week Yevgeny Prigozhin, its financier, said that Wagner had set up recruitment centres in 42 cities across Russia to recruit another 30,000 fighters.
Other widely available Wagner merchandise for sale include carved wooden backgammon sets, keyrings, mugs, T-shirts and car stickers.
Politicians looking to attract support ahead of regional elections in Russia, scheduled for September, have posed for photos in their offices with Wagner sledgehammers and bragged about taking courses in combat at Wagner training centres.
In November, Wagner opened a glass and steel office block on the outskirts of St Petersburg, where it offers discounted rent on offices to companies involved in pushing the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and also hosts pro-war photo exhibitions.
Wagner is named after the callsign of the Russian special forces soldier who set it up in 2014. Mr Prigozhin, Wagner's financier, is a tough-talking former criminal and restauranter who befriended Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, when the Russian leader was deputy mayor of the city.