Wagner Group’s head, Prigozhin, appears in the first video statement following the attempted coup.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, has made his first video appearance following his unsuccessful mutiny in Russia, hinting that he is currently in Africa.
The authenticity of the video shared on Telegram channels linked to the Wagner mercenary group has not been confirmed by the BBC.
Prigozhin is seen in military attire, stating that the group’s mission in Africa is to promote freedom. Wagner is believed to have a significant presence with thousands of fighters on the continent, engaged in profitable business ventures.
Prigozhin’s forces are stationed in countries like Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), where they are accused of committing war crimes by rights organizations and the UN.
Recently, the UK imposed sanctions on Wagner’s leaders in CAR, accusing them of torture and civilian killings.
Additionally, Wagner mercenaries have faced allegations from the US of engaging in illegal gold transactions on the continent.
Prigozhin mentions in the video that Wagner is involved in mineral exploration, battling Islamist militants, and tackling criminal activities, all while contributing to Russia’s influence globally and enhancing Africa’s liberation.
“Justice and happiness – for the African people, we’re making life a nightmare for ISIS (Islamic State) and Al-Qaeda and other bandits.”
He says Wagner is recruiting and the group will “continue fulfilling the tasks that were set – we made promises we would succeed”.
Prigozhin was photographed in St Petersburg during last month’s Africa-Russia summit, shaking hands with Ambassador Freddy Mapouka, a presidential advisor in the CAR.
Prigozhin has been keeping a low public profile since heading his short-lived mutiny in June, which lasted only 24 hours.
About 5,000 Wagner troops seized control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and moved toward Moscow, with the stated aim of removing the military leadership.
However, Prigozhin stopped the advance after negotiations with the Kremlin, which were mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Under a deal to end the mutiny, charges against Prigozhin were dropped and he was offered a move to Belarus.
There had been very public infighting between Wagner and Russia’s Ministry of Defence over the conduct of the war. Prigozhin repeatedly accused the ministry of failing to supply his group with ammunition.
Prigozhin says he founded the Wagner Group in 2014. A wealthy businessman with a criminal record, Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s chef” because he provided catering for the Kremlin.
In 2014, Wagner started backing pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and is thought to have helped Russia annex Crimea.
Before the war in Ukraine, Wagner had an estimated 5,000 fighters – mostly veterans of Russia’s elite regiments and special forces.
However, Prigozhin said last June that its numbers had grown since the start of the Ukraine war to 25,000 fighters.