Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, has appeared for the first time in a video address since his private military company (PMC) mutinied in June, earlier this year.
The video was released on Telegram, a popular messaging and social media platform. Prigozhin can be seen in full combat gear claiming that Wagner Group’s operations in Africa are making the continent “more free”.
Wagner has a significant operational footprint across Africa, where thousands of mercenaries working for the company are believed to be located.
Prigozhin appears to be in Africa
After an apparent coup attempt by Wagner Group mercenaries- the exact nature of which is still a matter of speculation – Prigozhin’s exact whereabouts became unknown.
In June, approximately 5,000 Wagner personnel took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and advanced toward Moscow, claiming their intention was to depose the military leadership. In the months prior to the incident, Prigozhin had repeatedly and publicly criticized the Russian military leadership for their approach to the war in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Prigozhin halted their progress following discussions with the Kremlin, which were facilitated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. As part of an agreement to conclude the uprising, charges against Mr. Prigozhin were dismissed, and he was provided the option to relocate to Belarus.
Now, however, Prigozhin appears to be somewhere on the African continent, although his exact whereabouts remain unknown.
“We are working. The temperature is +50 – everything as we like. Wagner PMC conducts reconnaissance and search actions, makes Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free,” the mercenary chief said in the video.
“Justice and happiness – for the African people, we’re making life a nightmare for ISIS (Islamic State) and Al-Qaeda and other bandits,” he continued.
Wagner operations in Africa
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Russia’s Wagner Group has intervened in the affairs of several African countries, providing military and security support while expanding Moscow’s influence across the continent.”
The Wagner Group has set up its activities across various African nations, primarily concentrating on security concerns. Its involvement frequently encompasses delivering security solutions, offering paramilitary aid, and initiating information warfare efforts to aid embattled governments in return for access to resources and backing on the diplomatic front. Wagner’s primary areas of activity include the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali, and Sudan, all of which share strained relations with the Western world due to historical colonial ties and underlying political disparities.
“Wagner’s services vary based on the needs of its clients, which include rebel groups and regimes, and its funding ranges from direct payment to resource concessions,” further explains William Rampe of the Council on Foreign Relations.