Russia’s mutinous mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has appeared in a video welcoming his fighters from the Wagner Group in Belarus and telling them they will not participate in Ukraine war for now but ordered them to gather their strength for “a new journey to Africa.”
According to earlier reports, the Kremlin was willing to let Prigozhin’s Wagner Group keep some of its extensive operations in Africa, as Russia scrambles to retain its influence in the resource-rich continent in the aftermath of his attempted mutiny.
As many as 600 Wagner mercenaries have reportedly left Central African Republic (CAR) since the short-lived mutiny in Russia after a contract dispute. But in the latest footage, published by Prigozhin’s press service on Telegram on Wednesday (19 July), the Wagner Group’s boss says that his men should behave well towards the locals and orders them to train the Belarusian army and gather their strength for a “new journey to Africa.”
Wagner was founded by Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin, a former special forces officer in Russia’s GRU military intelligence, as a way for Russia to get involved in wars in countries including Syria, Libya, and Mali with full deniability.
Wagner fighters helped Russia annex Crimea in 2014, fought Islamic State militants in Syria, operated in the CAR and Mali and took the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut for Russia earlier this year with considerable losses on both sides. Since a deal was struck between the Kremlin and Prigozhin to end the mutiny, Russian officials have dismissed Western interpretations of the mutiny, saying the West should not concern itself with such “scrapes.”