Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin appeals for 'warriors' to fight in Africa

Mercenary leader releases recruitment video and says fighters will make 'Russia even greater on all continents and Africa even more free'

A still from the latest video released by Yevgeny Prigozhin at an unknown location. AP
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Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has released his first recruitment video for the mercenaries since leading an attempted mutiny against officials in Russia.

In the footage, which was posted on Telegram channels associated with the group, Mr Prigozhin, 62, says the Wagner Group is conducting reconnaissance and search activities, “making Russia even greater on all continents and Africa even more free”.

“We are hiring real bogatyrs [ancient Slavic warriors] and continuing to fulfil the tasks which were set and which we promised to handle,” he says in the video, toting an assault rifle and wearing military fatigues, against a backdrop of pick-up trucks and others dressed in combat uniforms.

Russian social media channels linked to the mercenary leader said Mr Prigozhin was recruiting fighters to work in Africa and inviting investors from Russia to pump money in the Central African Republic through Russian House, a cultural centre in the African nation's capital city, Bangui.

In the video posted on Monday, Mr Prigozhin says Wagner is “giving ISIS, Al Qaeda and other gangsters hell" in temperatures of 50°C.

The Kremlin has used the Wagner Group since 2014 as a tool to expand Russia's influence and presence in the Middle East and Africa.

Wagner personnel have operated in five African states and their presence was often accompanied by reports of human rights abuse involving torture and killing.

Last month UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Britain would “look with seriousness” at requests for military training and support from African leaders after some countries on the continent turned to the Wagner paramilitary group to meet an “unfulfilled need”.

The Wagner founder had long benefited from Russian President Vladimir Putin's powerful patronage, including while he built a private army that fought for Russian interests abroad and participated in some of the deadliest battles of the war in Ukraine, until he led the mutiny.

Mr Prigozhin spent months criticising Russia’s military performance in Ukraine before he called for an armed uprising on June 23 to oust Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, and headed from Ukraine towards Moscow with his mercenaries.

Under a deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Mr Prigozhin agreed to end his rebellion in exchange for amnesty for him and his fighters, as well as permission to relocate to Belarus.

Before moving there, Wagner handed over its weapons to the Russian military, part of efforts by Russian authorities to defuse the threat posed by the mercenaries.

Mr Putin called Mr Prigozhin a traitor as the revolt unfolded and vowed harsh punishment but a criminal case against the mercenary chief on rebellion charges was later dropped.

Unusually, the Kremlin said Mr Putin had a three-hour meeting with Mr Prigozhin and Wagner Group commanders days after the rebellion.

A video last month apparently showed Mr Prigozhin in Belarus but he was photographed after that on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Updated: August 22, 2023, 7:57 AM