Earlier today, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared in a video statement posted to his personal Telegram channel from an unspecified African country announcing his presence in the continent and called for greater recruitment.
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) August 21, 2023
In the statement, Prigozhin said that “We are working… The Wagner Group conducts reconnaissance and search activities. Makes Russia even greater on all continents! And Africa even more free. Justice and happiness for the African peoples. Nightmare of “ISIS”, “Al-Qaeda” and other gangsters,” adding that “We hire real heroes and continue to fulfill the tasks that were set and to which we made a promise that we would keep.”
The video marks Prigozhin’s first video statement since July 19, where he addressed crowds of Wagner fighters at their new base in Belarus following the mutiny that took place a month prior. After telling the fighters that they will back Belarus in battle and to treat the country as their home, he turned things over to Wagner co-founder Dmitry Valerievich Utkin, who declared “You have done much work. Because of what you all have done, the name “Wagner” is known by the whole world. This is not the end, this is just the beginning. The largest job in the world will begin soon!… welcome to hell!”
Prigozhin has reappeared, in an undated video purportedly shot near Mogilev, Belarus, where Wagner fighters are relocating post-mutiny. Hard to tell but sounds like him (video was released on his TG channel). "Welcome to hell!" he says mid-way through. pic.twitter.com/ZXa48vqydb
— Mike Eckel (@Mike_Eckel) July 19, 2023
With essentially being exiled to Belarus and no longer taking part in combat operations in Ukraine, the fate of Wagner operations was put into question, however, it became clear that the group would return to its roots and focus on Africa. Prigozhin was next seen later that month in Moscow during the Africa Summit, which just came just days after a military coup in Niger overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum. There, he met with leaders from Mali and Burkina Faso, who soon after pledged military support for Niger in the face of an impending military intervention by a coalition of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members.
Wagner Group has already established itself in Mali and Central African Republic, where its receives lucrative contracts in military advising, diplomatic protection, and guarding of key rare earth metal sites as it continues to serve the foreign interests of the Russian government. The coup in Niger, like in Mali and Burkina Faso, served as a key opportunity for Wagner to further insert itself in Western Africa in the wake of French security forces. Wagner’s future in Niger remains unknown at this time, but both the Nigerien junta and Prigozhin has signaled a potential pact when facing ECOWAS and opposition from Western powers.
Is Prigozhin’s new recruiting campaign meant to increase manpower for regional contracts or to help build strength for a regional conflict?