In a recent video address, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, announced a shift in the group’s operations towards Africa. Previously known for its involvement in Ukraine, the mercenary organization is now seeking to advance Russia’s goals on the African continent.
Prigozhin, appearing in desert surroundings wearing a camouflage hat and armed with a rifle, spoke of Wagner’s ongoing work and their search for individuals referred to as “real bogatyrs,” who are renowned for their strength in Russian folklore. He mentioned that the group is conducting reconnaissance operations to make Russia more influential globally and to bring about greater freedom in Africa.
The exact location and timing of the video remain unknown. However, it has been circulating on Wagner-affiliated Telegram channels. Prigozhin, after the short-lived rebellion in southern Russia, has mostly stayed out of the public eye. He was granted pardons and the opportunity to relocate his fighters to Belarus as part of an agreement brokered with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
The long-term prospects of the Wagner Group remain uncertain. Putin acknowledged that the group was government-funded following the rebellion. It is unclear whether Prigozhin can sustain the organization without state support. The base in the Krasnodar region of Russia, where Wagner’s activities were primarily concentrated, is closing down, leading to the dismissal of many fighters.
Reports suggest that Wagner has stationed around 4,000 to 5,000 fighters in Belarus, mainly in the village of Tsel near a military base used for training with official Belarusian forces. The presence of mercenaries in Belarus has raised concerns about escalating tension on NATO’s borders and has prompted Lithuania to close two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus due to security risks associated with Wagner.
While prisoners from Russian prisons were previously deployed to Ukraine, recent advertisements posted on Wagner-related channels indicate a shift in recruitment strategy. The group now aims to attract experienced soldiers with clean records for six-month contracts in the Middle East and Africa, offering monthly salaries ranging from $1,600 to $2,600.
In recent years, Wagner has provided military support to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and Africa in exchange for lucrative deals involving natural resources. The group has faced allegations of war crimes in countries such as Libya and Mali.
Wagner is known to have a significant presence in the Central African Republic (CAR), where it has been protecting the government since 2018 against rebel forces. Despite concerns arising from the mutiny, Moscow assured its allies that the mercenaries would remain in place. There have been indications of Wagner attempting to reestablish its influence on the continent remotely.
Furthermore, Prigozhin has expressed interest in providing his services to Niger, praising the recent military coup as an anti-colonial victory in an audio message posted on Telegram. As the Wagner Group seeks new clients, the repercussions of the rebellion continue to impact Moscow. Reports suggest that Sergei Surovikin, a general with ties to Prigozhin, has been removed from his position as Air Force commander and reassigned within the Defense Ministry.
As Wagner expands its operations in Africa, the future of the group remains uncertain. With new recruitment strategies and ongoing deployments, the mercenary organization aims to solidify Russia’s presence on the African continent. However, the lack of state support and internal shake-ups raise questions about its long-term viability. Only time will reveal the true extent of Wagner’s influence in Africa and its ability to fulfill its goals on behalf of Russia.