Russian mercenary commander Yevgeny Prigozhin posted his first video speech since leading a short-lived insurgency in late June, appearing in a clip on social media that indicated it was filmed in Africa.
In the video, which was posted on the Wagner Group’s Telegram channels on Monday, Prigozhin talks about making Russia bigger on all continents and Africa freer.
This is likely to exacerbate Western fears that Wagner will expand its African operations after a while coup in Niger which took anti-Western overtones.
Prigozhin was seen standing in a desert area in camouflage uniform with a rifle in his hands.
In the distance are armed men and a pickup truck.
Reuters was unable to locate or verify the date of the video.
Prigozhin’s comments and some posts on pro-Wagner channels indicated that it was filmed in Africa.
“The temperature is +50 – everything is as we like. Wagner PMC (a private military company) makes Russia the greatest on all continents, and Africa the freest,” Prigozhin says in the video.
“Justice and happiness – for the African people, we are making life a nightmare for ISIS, Al Qaeda and other bandits,” he says.
Then he said that Wagner was recruiting people and the group “will carry out the tasks that have been set.”
The video is attached to the phone number for those who want to join the group.
Wagner is already in Niger’s neighbour, Mali, where its fighters were hired in 2021 by the military junta that ordered the exit of French troops and UN peacekeepers that have been helping the Malian army fight Islamist rebels for a decade.
UN sanctions monitors alleged in a report released in August that Malian forces and their Russian partners use violence against women and other gross human rights abuses to spread terror.
Wagner and Mali denied this, as well as accusations that at least 500 people were executed in a village last year.
And in Niger, where American, French, German and Italian forces are stationed as part of international efforts to contain the Islamists, the military junta that seized power on July 26 has been using anti-French rhetoric in its broadcasts. The military government in Mali supported the coup leaders in Niger.
Pro-coup demonstrators waved in Niamey Russian flagsWhich increases the fears of Western countries that Niger could follow Mali’s example and replace its forces with Wagner fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a return to constitutional order in Niger, while Prigozhin welcomed the coup.
Prigozhin’s video appeared on the eve of A.S BRICS summit in South Africa Where efforts by some members to consolidate and perhaps expand the bloc as a counterweight to the West are on the agenda. Putin will participate virtually, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to attend in person.
The future of Wagner and Prigozhin has been unclear since he led a brief insurgency against Russia’s defense establishment in late June, and the Kremlin said he and some of his fighters – who fought in some of the fiercest battles of Ukraine’s war – would leave the country. for Belarus.
Since the rebellion, some of the Wagner fighters have moved to Belarus and started training the army there.
in comments Prigozhin, published in late July, said Wagner was ready to increase its presence in Africa.
As in Mali, so is Wagner Active in the Central African Republic and Libya.
Western countries say they are also present in Sudan, but they deny this.