The first video message Yevgeny Prigozhin shared since the end of his failed mutiny against Vladimir Putin, may have ended up being his last – with reports that he was on the passenger list of a jet that crashed about 60 miles from Moscow, apparently killing all on board.
The Wagner boss said during the clip that he is recruiting “strongmen” and said the group will “fulfil the tasks that were set” by the Russian government.
The video was shared on Telegram channels affiliated with the Wagner group, as Mr Prigozhin said the mercenary group was “making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even more free”.
“The temperature is +50 (122 degrees Fahrenheit) – everything as we like. The Wagner PMC [private military company] 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,” he said in the video.
In the background of the video, pickup trucks and other people dressed in fatigues could be seen. A telephone number was displayed as well for those who wanted to join the group. The Independent could not verify the date and exact location of the video.
According to the Russian social media channels affiliated with the mercenary leader, the Wagner leader is recruiting fighters to work in the continent. He is inviting investors from Russia to put money in the Central African Republic through Russian House, a cultural centre in the African nation’s capital, they suggested.
Mr Prigozhin was last seen in a video in July shot in Belarus shortly after his attempt to stir mutiny against the Kremlin failed, sparking speculation that he was taking refuge in the Russian ally nation as part of a deal to broker peace.
He was later photographed on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in the Russian city of St Petersburg.
There is no official announcement of his current whereabouts. But one of the most prominent sites is the Central African Republic, where Wagner’s troops for hire have been active and accused of committing gross human rights abuses.
Mr Prigozhin staunchly criticised Russia’s military performance and the top brass of the Russian defence ministry before he called for an armed uprising on 23 June to oust the defence minister and marched from Ukraine toward Moscow with his mercenaries.
The hours-long mutiny ended after a deal was brokered by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, following which Mr Prigozhin agreed to end his rebellion in exchange for amnesty for him and his fighters and permission to relocate to Belarus.
Before moving to Belarus, Wagner handed over its weapons to the Russian military, part of efforts by Russian authorities to defuse the threat posed by the mercenaries.
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