In first speech since deal that ended his mutiny, PMC Wagner's chief Prigozhin reminds Putin of services in Africa, Arab world, and Ukraine

In first speech since deal that ended his mutiny, PMC Wagner's chief Prigozhin reminds Putin of services in Africa, Arab world, and Ukraine
Wagner PMC leader Yevgeny Prigozhin breaks his silence, highlighting the group's services and combat readiness, following a failed mutiny against the Russian regime, while his whereabouts remain unknown and reports suggest his arrival in Belarus.
3 min read
27 June, 2023
Putin's chef Yevgeny Prigozhin leads the Wagner group of mercenaries

PMC Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has broken his silence since the botched mutiny against the Russian regime, reminding Russians of his group's services to Moscow in Africa, Arab countries, and Ukraine.

In an 11-minute audio message shared on Russian social media channels, Prigozhin asserted that Wagner is the most experienced and combat-ready unit in Russia, possibly even in the world. He hinted that the outcome of the war in Ukraine could have been different if his group had led the march on Kyiv.

Prigozhin claimed that Wagner's "locked and loaded fighters" have successfully completed numerous tasks in the interests of the Russian Federation in Africa, Arab countries, and worldwide. He pointed to recent accomplishments in Ukraine, highlighting the completion of highly challenging missions, including the capture of Bakhmut.

In an apparent response to President Putin's criticism on Monday, during which he expressed frustration with Wagner's actions without explicitly naming Prigozhin, the man known as Putin's Chef framed his actions as a "march for justice" prompted by Putin's decision to dissolve the group.

While Prigozhin's current whereabouts remain unknown, reports have emerged suggesting that a jet carrying him arrived in Belarus on Tuesday.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko commented that the newly exiled Wagner PMC could provide valuable warfare expertise to his armed forces, indicating the possibility of utilizing the group as trainers.

These statements follow a deal brokered by Lukashenko, successfully preventing Prigozhin's march on Moscow. Prigozhin claimed he halted the march to avoid shedding Russian blood, although Russian reports indicate that 13 pilots were killed during the mutiny.

Wagner in MENA

Wagner PMC is a private military group of mercenaries deployed in various regions, often at the Kremlin's behest. They have been active in Arab countries such as Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Mali. In Syria, they serve as auxiliary forces to the Russian Armed Forces, while in other regions, they act as mercenaries hired by different factions involved in civil wars, including Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar and Sudan's controversial Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia.

Despite the failed mutiny led by Prigozhin, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov vowed that Wagner PMC's operations in Mali and the Central African Republic would continue. Lavrov noted that several hundred servicemen are working in those regions as instructors, fulfilling requests from local authorities to ensure the safety of leadership. He further assured that recent events in Russia would not adversely affect the country's relations with its partners and allies.

The group has faced accusations of war crimes and atrocities in Syria, Libya, Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic as well as Ukraine.

Wagner first emerged as a fighting force alongside pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine and went on to appear in several conflicts in the MENA region.

The Wagner Group has been active in Libya and the Sahel for several years and was accused of war crimes while assisting warlord Khalifa Haftar’s efforts to seize Tripoli between 2019 and 2020. 

The group is also accused of war crimes in Syria, where Russia has been militarily involved in support of Bashar al-Assad.

The group is believed to have over 20,000 serving members but is not formally registered in Russia or any other country - operating without any oversight and at arm's length from the Kremlin, alongside formal Russian military operations. 

Most recently, Western diplomats accused the Wagner group of "illicit activities" in Sudan connected to gold mining and disinformation efforts. The group has previously been sanctioned by both the US and the EU.