Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin says he is in Africa “making Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa even freer,” in a video circulating on pro-Russian military blogs Monday.
In the clip, Prigozhin is seen holding a rifle in a desert area while wearing camouflage. Behind him, in the distance, is a truck and two other men in camouflage.
The warlord says “the temperature is plus 50 [degrees Celsius],” and that Wagner is conducting reconnaissance and search operations.
CNN has not been able to locate where the clip was filmed nor verify the authenticity of the video, which comes months after Prigozhin launched an abortive mutiny against Russia’s military leadership.
“Justice and happiness for the African peoples,” Prigozhin says in the clip. “Let’s make it a nightmare for ISIS, al-Qaeda and other thugs. We are hiring real bogatyrs [ancient Slavic warriors] and continue to fulfill the tasks that were set before us and that we promised we would handle.”
Wagner fighters have been active in several African countries, including Mali, where they were invited by the ruling junta to quell an Islamic insurgency brewing near the country’s borders with Burkina Faso and Niger.
A number of CNN investigations, and others by human rights groups, have established Wagner’s involvement in and complicity with atrocities against civilian populations in Mali and the Central African Republic.
In Sudan, Wagner supplied the militia battling Sudan’s army and there is speculation Prigozhin may sense opportunities in Niger after a recent military coup there threatened to spark a major regional crisis.
Prigozhin has previously hinted that Wagner might be ready to offer its services in the West African country.
“What happened in Niger has been brewing for years,” he said in a long Telegram audio message last month. “The former colonizers are trying to keep the people of African countries in check. In order to keep them in check, the former colonizers are filling these countries with terrorists and various bandit formations. Thus creating a colossal security crisis.
“The population suffers. And this is the (the reason for the) love for PMC Wagner, this is the high efficiency of PMC Wagner. Because a thousand soldiers of PMC Wagner are able to establish order and destroy terrorists, preventing them from harming the peaceful population of states.”
Prigozhin was also spotted at the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg last month, meeting with African dignitaries on the sidelines, according to accounts associated with the mercenary group.
Following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Wagner forces were heavily involved in capturing the eastern cities of Soledar and Bakhmut. Prigozhin then spent months criticizing Russian military leadership and the support it was giving his troops before he called for an armed rebellion.
It posed an unprecedented challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority before it was suddenly called off in a deal that required Prigozhin and his fighters to relocate to Belarus.
CNN’s Mariya Knight and Nathan Hodge contributed to this report.