Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the renowned Wagner mercenary group, appears to be back in the spotlight, broadcasting from his new stronghold in Belarus. Through a video released on his personal Telegram channel, he assures his soldiers that despite the recent upheavals, their role in the world is far from over.
"Right now, what is happening on the front is a disgrace that we don't need to get involved with," Prigozhin declares in the video, implicitly referring to the conflict in Ukraine. For the time being, Wagner forces will remain in Belarus, ready to defend their hosts "in the event that it becomes necessary."
This follows last month's failed mutiny against Russia's military leadership, during which Prigozhin accused them of bungling and distorting the realities of the war in Ukraine. As a consequence of the fallout, the Wagner fighters agreed to relocate to a training camp in neighboring Belarus, under a deal brokered by the country's President, Alexandr Lukashenko. Photos of this sprawling makeshift camp suggest it can accommodate thousands of soldiers.
Prigozhin's sudden reappearance in Belarus confirms earlier speculations about his whereabouts. Following his aborted rebellion, he was spotted inside Russia and was even confirmed to have met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As well as confirming the group's short-term mission in Belarus, Prigozhin also hinted at upcoming foreign deployments. He sought to reassure his mercenaries that they are held in high esteem by the Belarusian population, and should prepare for a "new journey to Africa."
"We'll definitely be traveling all over the world," he assured his troops. Despite the recent tumult, the enigmatic leader remains confident about his group's future, promising his fighters that the "biggest job in the world" is imminent.
In recent years, Wagner mercenaries have been deployed in Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Their controversial operations, which have often been associated with the terrorization of local populations, are widely seen as a means to extend Russian influence in these regions. This, many believe, is why Putin is hesitant to dismantle the Wagner Group, despite their involvement in what he labeled an act of treason.
From his exile in Belarus, Prigozhin assures his troops, and the world, that the Wagner mission is far from finished. "It's not the end, it's just the beginning," he says. With this statement, Prigozhin suggests that, despite recent setbacks, the global reach and influence of his mercenary group are far from over.