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Wagner comeback? Mercenary czar Prigozhin hints at hiring new fighters soon

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An image of members of the Wagner Group inspecting a car in a street of Rostov-on-Don, Russia — AFP/Files
An image of members of the Wagner Group inspecting a car in a street of Rostov-on-Don, Russia — AFP/Files

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary group known as Wagner, indicated in a voice message on Monday that while they were not currently recruiting fighters, it was likely that they would do so in the near future. 

Prigozhin’s position within the group has been uncertain since he led a brief mutiny against the Russian defence establishment in late June, and the Kremlin announced that he and some of his fighters, who had been involved in intense battles during the Ukraine war, would be leaving for Belarus.

Despite these developments, Prigozhin attended a meeting with President Vladimir Putin just five days after the mutiny and was recently photographed in St. Petersburg during a gathering of African leaders hosted by Putin. 

In the voice message, which was published on the Grey Zone Telegram channel affiliated with Wagner, a voice resembling Prigozhin’s spoke of defining their next tasks in service of Russia’s greatness.

Following the June mutiny, the Kremlin stated that Wagner fighters who did not participate would transition to the regular army by signing contracts with the Defense Ministry. 

Alluding to this, Prigozhin mentioned in the voice message that unfortunately, some of his fighters had joined other “power structures,” but expressed their desire to return. 

He stated that they did not plan to conduct new recruitment unless there was a shortage of personnel, but emphasised their readiness to create a new group when the homeland required it.

Since the mutiny, some Wagner fighters have relocated to Belarus and begun training the country’s army. Prigozhin also mentioned last week that Wagner was prepared to expand its presence in Africa. 

The group’s activities in Africa, particularly its support for governments in Mali and the Central African Republic, have raised concerns among Western governments. 

The United States has accused Wagner of committing widespread atrocities and classified it as a criminal organisation, imposing sanctions accordingly.

 Prigozhin maintains that the group operates within the laws of the countries where it is active. Recently, he welcomed a military coup in Niger and seemingly made a pitch for his fighters to establish order in the country.

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