Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group has denied responsibility for sending letter bombs and packages containing animal eyes to embassies across Europe.
Referred to as a “well-planned” campaign of intimidation by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, the incidents involved packages being sent to embassies in Poland, Italy, Croatia, and the Netherlands, and consulates in Naples and the Czech Republic.
Other targets have so far included a letter bomb arriving at the office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the arms manufacturer Instalaza in Zaragoza, and a satellite center at an airbase in Madrid.
Received throughout last week, five of the letters were detected by security personnel before they reached their targets, Spanish TV station La Sexta reported on Thursday.
However, one of the letter bombs, sent to the U.S. embassy in Madrid, went undetected and was opened by an employee on Nov. 30. The individual was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
A further letter, sent to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid was intercepted on Dec, 1, with Spain’s Interior Ministry saying the package displayed “similar characteristics to the previous ones.”
The letter bombs, all sent in brown parcels, consisted of homemade devices containing a tripwire and flammable powder, Rafael Perez, Spain’s Deputy Interior Minister told Reuters.
Other packages were found to contain bloody animal parts, with Yevhenia Voloshchenko, a Ukrainian official in Rome, saying that her embassy had received a small parcel containing a fish eye.
In the Czech Republic, police officials confirmed that an envelope delivered to the Ukrainian embassy in the city of Brno was found to contain “animal tissue.” A similar package was also sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague, while Andrii Yurash, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See told reporters that the entrance to his apartment had been smeared with a “dirty substance.”
“It was like a warning. Everybody needs to be prepared for a repeat of the same terrible gesture,” Ambassador Yurash, said in a phone interview with CNN on Dec. 1. “Surely it’s a way from the Russian side to threaten Ukrainian diplomats.”
Responding to the packages in Spain, the country’s Interior Ministry said in a statement: “As a result of these events, the National Police is conducting a confidential investigation,” adding that it had implemented “an increase in security measures around the consular legations present in our country as well as in other areas that need special protection.”
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said that whoever was behind the acts of terror “will not succeed in intimidating Ukrainian diplomats or stopping their daily work on strengthening Ukraine and countering Russian aggression.”
Meanwhile, in a written response to CNN, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “Think about the madness when some hooligans send bomb letters or other offensive things – what does this have to do with Wagner PMC.”
The Wagner Group has been widely condemned for its involvement in human rights abuses in several conflicts, including in Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
Responding to his comments, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova sent CNN a one-word comment, calling Kuleba a “psycho,” while Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, wrote on Telegram that his organization would “never engage in boorish stupid antics.”
Spanish police have confirmed that an investigation is still ongoing.
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