Prigozhin: Video appears to show Wagner boss in Belarus


A video on Telegram channels linked to the Wagner mercenary group appears to show its boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in Belarus.

He is seen welcoming fighters and describing recent developments on the front line in Ukraine as a “disgrace”.

He also hints that Wagner might rejoin the war at a later date.

The video also appears to confirm a statement by Belarus that Wagner fighters were now acting as military instructors for the country’s army.

This would be the first footage of Prigozhin seen since Wagner launched an armed mutiny inside Russia in late June.

Shot in low light, it shows Prigozhin standing on an asphalt track in a field, surrounded by trees and what look like warehouses and tents.

BBC Verify is confident that the layout of the tents, trees and buildings matches that of a location on the western edge of the camp.

Numerous people in camouflage can be seen in the background, and are heard cheering.

Despite the poor light, Prigozhin is just about recognisable by his silhouette, and Russian speakers familiar with his previous statements say the voice and manner of speaking is unmistakably his.

In the video, Prigozhin says that the fighters “put up a worthy fight” in Ukraine and had “done a great deal” for Russia, and strongly criticises the current conduct of the war.

“What is currently happening on the front line is a disgrace that we don’t want to have any part in, and we need to wait until we can show our mettle in full,” he is heard saying.

He goes on to say that “the decision has been taken to stay here in Belarus for a certain time” and Wagner would use the time to make the Belarusian army the “second army in the world”.

The Wagner boss also hints that his fighters would “continue to prepare” and possibly return to the front lines in Ukraine “when we are sure that we won’t be forced to put ourselves and our experience to shame”.


Prigozhin seems to be keeping to deal with Kremlin

Analysis box by Steve Rosenberg, Russia editor

So, Prigozhin has reappeared – well, sort of. It certainly sounds like the Wagner chief who is (allegedly) addressing Wagner fighters in Belarus. And the silhouette in the shaky dusk video is similar.

And – like the Yevgeny Prigozhin we remember from a few weeks back – he’s speaking his mind about the situation on the front line in Ukraine, describing it as a “disgrace” (which implies criticism of the Russian military leadership). But unlike the Yevgeny Prigozhin we remember so well, he doesn’t get personal – no direct criticism of Defence Minister Shoigu or chief of the General Staff Gerasimov. And no more “marches of justice” or mutinies.

No, from this video it seems that he is honouring the deal he did with the Kremlin (ie – immunity from prosecution in return for leaving for Belarus). Indeed, both sides are keeping to the deal.

OK. So Prigozhin and Wagner are in Belarus.

What are they going to do next? The voice suggests that some of the fighters will be heading to Africa; some will be training the Belarusian army and turning it into the “world’s second-best army”. He said they would stay in Belarus “for some time.” And he left open the possibility of a return to the “special military operation” in Ukraine at some point.

2px presentational grey line

The last comment appears to refer to previous allegations by Prigozhin that the Russian defence ministry limited the supply of ammunition to Wagner during the long and bloody battle for the eastern Ukrainian city Bakhmut to limit or thwart its success in the fighting.

At one point, Prigozhin hands over to a man he introduces as “the commander and the person who gave us the name Wagner”.

Although his name is not mentioned, this is almost certain to be a rare public appearance by Dmitry Utkin, the former Russian army officer thought to be Wagner’s military chief. It is his callsign – “Wagner” – the group is named after.

Earlier BBC Verify analysis showed dozens of vehicles entering the new Wagner camp at Tsel, a disused military base in southern Belarus – about 64 miles (103km) from the capital Minsk.

  • What we know about Wagner movements

Under the deal that ended the short-lived rebellion, the mercenaries were told they could join the regular Russian army or head to Belarus, a close ally of Russia.

In an interview with Kommersant business daily last week, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that “Wagner does not exist”.

“There is no law on private military organisations. It just doesn’t exist,” the Russian president said when asked whether the group would be preserved as a fighting unit.

Related Topics

  • Russia-Ukraine war
  • Belarus
  • Russia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *