The head of thehas appeared in his first video since leading a against Russian commanders in June.
He is seen standing in arid desert land, dressed in camouflage with a rifle in his hand, and hinting he’s somewhere in Africa. He says Wagner is making Russia great on all continents, and making Africa “more free.”
CBS News has not verified Prigozhin’s location or when the video was taken. But it appears to be a recruitment drive on the African continent, where the Wagner Group has been active. Some nations have turned to the private army to fill security gaps or prop up dictatorial regimes.
“In most cases, they provide training for local military forces, local security forces, but they are also engaged in VIP protection, also in guarding. And if necessary, they are able to conduct also high intensity operations, I mean real combat,” said Dr. András Rácz, a Russian expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations.
In some countries, like the Central African Republic, Wagner exchanges services for almost unfettered access to natural resources. Afound that Wagner is plundering the country’s mineral resources in exchange for protecting the president against a coup.
Wherever Wagner has a presence on the African continent, it’s also been accused of horrific human rights violations. Wagner mercenaries have been accused of atrocities, including mass murder and rape, across Africa and alongside Russian forces in Ukraine — where the group has been a key piece of Russia’s strategy.
The future of the Wagner Group, however, has been unclear since June, when tensions between Wagner and Russia’s defense ministry escalated dramatically. Prigozhin alleged that Russian forces had attacked Wagner camps in eastern Ukraine, killing dozens of his men. Prigozhin’s Wagner forces then left Ukraine and marched into Russia, seizing control of the Russian military headquarters for the southern region in Rostov-on-Don, which oversees the.
he agreed to halt his forces’ “movement inside Russia, and to take further steps to de-escalate tensions,” in an agreement brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state media in June that as part of the deal, Prigozhin would move to Belarus.
However,were raised in July over uncertainty about his whereabouts. A U.S. official told CBS News last month that Prigozhin was not believed to be in Belarus and could be in Russia.
Cara Tabachnick, Haley Ott, Kerry Breen and Duarte Dias contributed to this article.