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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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International

Prigozhin pops up in Africa, Wagner mercs educate in Belarus

Aug 22, 2023

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor, Investigative Reporter

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Two months after Yevgeny Prigozhin led his mercenaries in an armed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, the head of the Wagner Group appeared to be in Africa. The on-again, off-again Putin ally was back to his old ways of using social media to further the Russian cause.

In the video, translated by Reuters, Prigozhin said, “The temperature is +50, everything as we like. The Wagner PMC makes Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa — more free. Justice and happiness for the African people. We’re making life a nightmare for ISIS and al-Qaeda and other bandits.”

Wagner is no stranger to working in Africa. The mercenary group has security contracts with several governments protecting mines, training troops and performing the various other illicit acts guns for hire usually perform.

Prigozhin ended his latest video with a recruiting message, telling potential new hires they should help Wagner “fulfill the tasks that were set.”

In July, Prigozhin said some of his battle-hardened fighters from the war in Ukraine would be coming to Africa. Currently, the bulk of what’s left of the Wagner fighting force is in Belarus training with the Belarusian armed forces.

After the failed mutiny, most Wagner fighters were relocated to tent camps in Belarus. The Wagner Group also had to give up all its armored vehicles and artillery to the Russian armed forces. Instead of registering as a private military company, the Wagner Group is registered as an educational organization in Belarus.

Without armor and artillery, Wagner fighters in Belarus pose little threat to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia on their own. But Wagner was involved in some of the heaviest fighting in Ukraine. So, the knowledge and experience the group is passing along can’t be discounted.

It’s why the nations that border Belarus are beefing up those borders. There is also a heightened focus on what’s known as the Suwalki Gap, a narrow and sparsely populated area separating Belarus from the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. In the unlikely event Belarus attacks Poland or Lithuania — two NATO nations — the conflict would likely center around this strategically important stretch of land.

To counter that potential attack, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are all building better walls and fences between their lands and Belarus. They’re also deploying more soldiers.

Poland is sending 10,000 troops to the border to address its immediate concerns and investing billions to address long-term needs. In the last year, Poland signed contracts to buy tanks, artillery, rocket launchers and missile batteries from the United States and South Korea. Now, the Poles are in the process of buying almost 100 AH-64E Apache helicopters.

Whatever threat Wagner or Wagner-trained fighters in Belarus pose to Poland’s military would be decimated against the Poles’ ever-increasing firepower.

There is a threat to civilians in Belarus, though. The U.S. State Department issued a warning to Americans there, urging them to leave immediately. Wagner fighters are accused of numerous war crimes in Ukraine, and there’s no guarantee the group doesn’t bring that same level of brutality to Belarus.

Thankfully, the threat Wagner brings may be losing steam, too. Intelligence from the National Resistance Center in Ukraine showed about 5,800 Wagner fighters made it to the tent camps when they were first exiled. Now, that number is closer to 4,400.

The NRC said the mercenaries are leaving because they aren’t making much money in Belarus, and it’s hard to keep guns for hire on the payroll when you can’t offer competitive pay.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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TWO MONTHS AFTER YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN LED HIS MERCENARIES IN AN ARMED MUTINY AGAINST RUSSIA’S MILITARY LEADERSHIP, THE HEAD OF THE WAGNER GROUP APPEARS TO BE IN AFRICA, FURTHERING THE RUSSIAN CAUSE.
Prigozhin via interpreter: “The temperature is +50 – everything as we like. The Wagner PMC makes Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa – more free. Justice and happiness – for the African people, we’re making life a nightmare for ISIS and Al-Qaeda and other bandits.”
WAGNER IS NO STRANGER TO WORKING IN AFRICA. THE MERCENARY GROUP HAS SECURITY CONTRACTS WITH SEVERAL GOVERNMENTS PROTECTING MINES, TRAINING TROOPS, AND PERFORMING THE VARIOUS OTHER ILLICIT ACTS GUNS FOR HIRE USUALLY PERFORM.
PRIGOZHIN ENDED HIS LATEST VIDEO WITH A RECRUITING MESSAGE, TELLING POTENTIAL NEW HIRES THEY SHOULD HELP WAGNER “FULFILL THE TASKS THAT WERE SET.”
IN JULY, PRIGOZHIN SAID SOME OF HIS BATTLE-HARDENED FIGHTERS FROM THE WAR IN UKRAINE WOULD BE COMING TO AFRICA. CURRENTLY, THE BULK OF WHAT’S LEFT OF THE WAGNER FIGHTING FORCE IS IN BELARUS TRAINING WITH THE BELARUSIAN ARMED FORCES.
AFTER THE FAILED MUTINY, MOST WAGNER FIGHTERS WERE RELOCATED TO TENT CAMPS IN BELARUS. THE WAGNER GROUP ALSO HAD TO GIVE UP ALL ITS ARMORED VEHICLES AND ARTILLERY TO THE RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES. INSTEAD OF REGISTERING AS A PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY, THE WAGNER GROUP IS REGISTERED AS AN EDUCATIONAL ORGANIZATION IN BELARUS.
WITHOUT ARMOR AND ARTILLERY, WAGNER FIGHTERS IN BELARUS POSE LITTLE THREAT TO POLAND, LITHUANIA, AND LATVIA ON THEIR OWN. BUT WAGNER WAS INVOLVED IN SOME OF THE HEAVIEST FIGHTING IN UKRAINE. SO, THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE THE GROUP IS PASSING ALONG CAN’T BE DISCOUNTED.
IT’S WHY THE NATIONS THAT BORDER BELARUS ARE BEEFING UP THOSE BORDERS. THERE IS ALSO A HEIGHTENED FOCUS ON WHAT’S KNOWN AS THE SUWALKI GAP, A NARROW AND SPARSELY POPULATED AREA SEPARATING BELARUS FROM THE RUSSIAN EXCLAVE KALINNINGRAD. IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT BELARUS ATTACKS POLAND OR LITHUANIA–TWO NATO NATIONS–THE CONFLICT WOULD LIKELY CENTER AROUND THIS STRATEGICALLY IMPORTANT STRETCH OF LAND.
TO WARD OFF AGAINST THAT POTENTIAL POLAND, LITHUANIA AND LATVIA ARE ALL BUILDING BETTER WALLS AND FENCES BETWEEN THEIR LANDS AND BELARUS. THEY’RE ALSO DEPLOYING MORE SOLDIERS.
POLAND IS SENDING 10,000 TROOPS TO THE BORDER TO ADDRESS ITS IMMEDIATE CONCERNS AND INVESTING BILLIONS TO ADDRESS LONG-TERM NEEDS. IN THE LAST YEAR, POLAND SIGNED CONTRACTS TO BUY TANKS, ARTILLERY, ROCKET LAUNCHERS AND MISSILE BATTERIES FROM THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA. NOW, THE POLES ARE IN THE PROCESS OF BUYING ALMOST 100 APACHE ATTACK HELICOPTERS.
WHATEVER THREAT WAGNER OR WAGNER-TRAINED FIGHTERS IN BELARUS POSE TO POLAND’S MILITARY WOULD BE DECIMATED AGAINST THE POLES’ EVER-INCREASING FIREPOWER.
THERE IS A THREAT TO CIVILIANS IN BELARUS, THOUGH. THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ISSUED A WARNING TO AMERICANS THERE, URGING THEM TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. WAGNER FIGHTERS ARE ACCUSED OF NUMEROUS WAR CRIMES IN UKRAINE, AND THERE’S NO GUARANTEE THE GROUP DOESN’T BRING THAT SAME LEVEL OF BRUTALITY TO BELARUS.
THANKFULLY, THE THREAT WAGNER BRINGS MAY BE LOSING STEAM, TOO.
INTELLIGENCE FROM THE NATIONAL RESISTANCE CENTER IN UKRAINE SHOWS ABOUT 5800 WAGNER FIGHTERS MADE IT TO THE TENT CAMPS WHEN THEY WERE FIRST EXILED. NOW, THAT NUMBER IS CLOSER TO 4400. THE NRC SAYS THE MERCS ARE LEAVING BECAUSE THEY AREN’T MAKING MUCH MONEY IN BELARUS, AND IT’S HARD TO KEEP GUNS FOR HIRE ON THE PAYROLL WHEN YOU CAN’T OFFER COMPETITIVE PAY.
FOR MORE UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING ABOUT WAGNER, BELARUS, AND THE WAR IN UKRAINE DOWNLOAD THE STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS APP TODAY OR CHECK US OUT AT SAN.COM.