In a video released on Monday, August 21, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, expressed that his organization was contributing to greater freedom in Africa and indicated his presence on the continent.
Prigozhin, once an associate of the Kremlin, and whose group opposed Russia’s military leadership in June, has been relatively reserved in his public appearances following the rebellion.
The video, likely filmed in Africa, was circulated through Telegram channels linked to the Wagner group. In the footage, an individual resembling the 62-year-old mercenary chief is observed in a desert setting, clad in camouflage attire and holding a rifle. In the background, additional armed individuals and a pickup truck can be seen.
The group upholds a significant military force in Africa, collaborating with various countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic.
“We are working. The temperature is above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Just how we like it,” Prigozhin said in the video.
The video depicts Prigozhin gripping an assault rifle, followed by a panoramic view that unveils military vehicles stationed across a vast, desert-esque expanse.
“The Wagner Group is conducting reconnaissance and search activities. Making Russia even greater on every continent — and Africa even freer,” Prigozhin said.
On Saturday, All Eyes on Wagner, a research organization focused on open-source information, revealed that an aircraft associated with Prighozin had touched down in Bamako, Mali’s capital.
Social media platforms aligned with the Russian mercenary leader indicated that Prigozhin was enlisting individuals to join as fighters in Africa. Additionally, these channels mentioned that Prigozhin was encouraging investors from Russia to invest in the Central African Republic (CAR) through Russian House, a cultural center affiliated with Prigozhin that operates in Bamako.
In the video, Prigozhin says Wagner is recruiting people and the group “will fulfil the tasks that were set”.
Prigozhin gained international attention in June through a dramatic and short-lived mutiny that posed a significant challenge to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year-long presidency. His last communication was in late July, when a social media account linked to him posted a message indicating that Wagner would temporarily halt recruitment of new fighters and shift its focus to operations in Africa and neighboring Belarus.
During recent years, Wagner has deployed several thousand troops across no less than five African nations, providing support to authoritarian local governments, often resulting in severe consequences for the local populace. Wagner has faced accusations of involvement in massacres, both in Mali and other regions within the Sahel and central Africa.
The group is thought to have its largest presence in the Central African Republic (CAR), where it intervened in 2018 on behalf of the government to quell a civil war that had persisted since 2012.
Additionally, Wagner dispatched around 1,000 personnel to Mali in December 2021 following a military coup.
Following Prigozhin’s uprising, Moscow provided reassurances to its African allies that the contingent of Wagner group fighters deployed on the continent would remain in place.
However, the fate of Wagner has been uncertain since Prigozhin orchestrated his brief rebellion against the Russian defense establishment.
Through an arrangement facilitated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin reached an agreement to halt his revolt in exchange for amnesty for himself and his fighters, as well as the ability to relocate to Belarus. Prior to their move, Wagner relinquished their weaponry to the Russian military, as part of the Russian authorities’ efforts to mitigate the threat posed by the mercenaries.
As the rebellion unfolded, Putin branded Prigozhin a traitor and pledged severe repercussions. However, the rebellion charges against the mercenary chief were subsequently dismissed.
In a departure from the norm, the Kremlin disclosed that Putin engaged in a three-hour discussion with Prigozhin and Wagner group commanders in the days following the revolt. During this meeting, Putin shared that he attempted, but failed, to replace Prigozhin as the leader of Wagner’s fighters in Ukraine.
In July, a video emerged seemingly featuring Prigozhin in Belarus. Subsequently, he was photographed at the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
For an extended period, the founder of Wagner enjoyed significant support from Putin, even as he established a private army that served Russian interests abroad and participated in some of the most intense clashes during the conflict in Ukraine.