Online prices for merchandise bearing the insignia of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force – a human skull against a black and red backdrop – have shot up since the group’s short-lived armed mutiny against the Russian military, with buyers also posting five-star reviews and support for the mercenaries.
Russia’s largest online retailer Wildberries’ weekly price breakdowns showed how costs have risen for Wagner paraphernalia after the private army’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, sent an armed convoy of fighters on a 1,200-kilometre (750-mile) charge towards Moscow on Saturday.
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After occupying the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and appearing to have a clear shot at entering Moscow, Prigozhin abruptly halted the advance of his fighters on Saturday after agreeing to lead his forces into Belarus following talks with that country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Wagner fighters may be out of sight in Russia, but they appear to still be on the minds of Russian online shoppers.
A Wagner uniform patch depicting the skull that can be sewn onto clothes fetched 525 roubles ($6) in the period June 25-29, up sharply from 294 ($3.36) roubles during June 18-25.
Prices for a black T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a Wagner fighter holding a violin jumped this week to 1,650 roubles ($18.80) from 1,236 roubles ($14.10).
“Due to the situation in the country, the purchase was spontaneous,” wrote one buyer, Tatiana.
People have also been buying other regalia, such as Wagner keyrings, on the rival Russian E-commerce site, Ozon.
“Very beautiful and original keyring,” wrote one five-star reviewer. “In memory of all those in Wagner’s ranks who died.”
Wildberries and Ozon declined to comment on Thursday on the surge in Wagner merchandise prices.
Elsewhere, Prigozhin face masks are now on sale in Saint Petersburg, alongside those of Putin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny.
Writing a review of a Wagner flag on Wildberries, one buyer, Vladimir, said: “The Wagner Private Military Company is the best. Good luck to you guys. The flag is excellent.”
Wagner fighters, who have spearheaded some of Russia’s fiercest battles in Ukraine, have been accused of committing atrocities in conflicts around the world in which they have become involved in recent years.
United Nations experts in January called for an independent investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out in Mali by government forces and Wagner mercenaries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the private army’s actions as “treason”. Yet, when Wagner’s armoured convoy crossed from Ukraine into Russia on their so-called “march to Moscow” on Saturday, they were cheered enthusiastically by residents in Rostov-on-Don – the city they briefly took control of in southern Russia.