The notorious Wagner Group’s top leaders have appeared in a new video from Belarus promising a new “beginning” for the mercenary group that does not involve the “disgrace” unfolding in Russia’s regular army in Ukraine.
A nearly 6-minute video released on a Telegram channel affiliated with Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin on Wednesday showed the Vladimir Putin-ally-turned-mutiny mastermind riling up a crowd of mercenaries at the group’s new base in Belarus, nearly a month after their violent uprising on Russian territory resulted in several dead Russian service members, a humiliated Vladimir Putin, and banishment to Belarus—though no criminal charges or people mysteriously falling out of windows.
Almost immediately, he took a shot at Russian military leaders whom he allegedly tried to capture last month during his violent armed uprising on Russian territory, telling the Wagner fighters: “You have done a lot for Russia. What is happening at the front now is a disgrace in which we do not need to take part. We must wait for the moment when we can show our worth to the maximum. That’s why it was decided that we will be here in Belarus for some time,” he said.
“During this time, we will make the Belarusian army the second army in the world. And if necessary, we will go to bat for them,” he said, quipping that “local girls” are already gossiping about the mercenary group’s arrival.
“Be careful not to hurt any of them,” he added.
“We’re gathering our strength, and [setting off] for a new path to Africa. And maybe we’ll return to the [war in Ukraine] when we can be sure we won’t be forced to bring shame to ourselves and our experience,” Prigozhin said.
He then directed the crowd’s attention to Dmitry Utkin, the shadowy neo-Nazi commander whom the group is named after. Utkin, a former special forces officer in the GRU, was greeted with roaring applause before telling the mercenaries gathered he was grateful to them for the name Wagner “blowing up all over the world.”
“This is not the end. This is only the beginning of the biggest work that will be carried out very soon. Welcome to hell!” he said.
Just a day earlier, Prigozhin announced that the mercenary group would continue its operations in Africa despite reports to the contrary. In comments to Afrique Media TV on Tuesday, he acknowledged that he’d sold off some assets but denied that the mercenary group was relinquishing its grip on the region.
“There has not been, and there won’t be, any winding down of our programs in Africa,” he said. “Without a doubt, we will continue to work in all those countries where we started and continue to carry out work.” He went on to portray the private army accused of myriad war crimes as a heroic crime-fighting force, saying, “If the help of Wagner is needed somewhere to fight gangs and terrorists, or to protect the interests of the peoples of these countries, we are ready to immediately begin to carry out these tasks.” His comments come after a raid on his home in St. Petersburg reportedly uncovered a framed photograph of the decapitated heads of several African men.