Troops from Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group, which are moving into Belarus after last month’s failed mutiny, will not return to fight in Ukraine and will remain in Belarus to train local troops, their leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Wednesday.
“We have done a lot for Russia. What is happening now at the front is a shame. We don’t want to be part of it,” Prigozhin She said in his first appearance since his troops marched on Moscow in a failed uprising last month.
In a shaky cellphone video shot at sunset, Prigozhin can be seen in silhouette wearing a baseball cap. He speaks to a crowd of men who look like Wagner fighters and break out repeatedly in applause and cheers.
“Therefore we made the decision to stay in Belarus for a while. Right now, we will make the Belarusian military into the second most powerful in the world and, if necessary, take its place,” Prigozhin pursued, in a jab at Russia, which currently has the second largest military in the world.
He then hinted that his troops might later go to Africa, where Wagner has been active in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Prigozhin’s deputy Dmitry Utkin, whose War name gave the mercenary army its name, speaks: “This is not the end. This is the beginning. The biggest task in the world will start very soon,” he said before switching to English: “Welcome to Hell.”
After months of tension with the Russian military leadership, Prigozhin last month turned his troops against the Russian authorities. He led his men deep into Russian territory, capturing the southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don and stopping only a few dozen kilometers from Moscow.
The rebel warlord then went off the grid after striking a deal with the Kremlin and Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko under which Wagner fighters would be spared prosecution in Russia, while he and his men would go into exile. in Belarus.
He resurfaced a few days later, posting a voice message on social media thanking supporters of the failed uprising, signaling that Minsk had offered options for its troops to continue operating from Belarus.
Since then, there have been conflicting reports about Prigozhin’s whereabouts. Lukashenko initially confirmed that Prigozhin had appeared in Belarus three days after the rebellion on June 27, before later saying that he wasn’t actually there and that he might as well be in Russia.
Last week, the Kremlin said boss Wagner was in Moscow on June 29, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin along with other Wagner commanders.