Yevgeny Prigozhin the head of the Wagner PMC was supposedly exiled from Russia after leading the failed mutiny and “march for justice” seems to have been moving freely between Belarus and Russia. Prigozhin owns multiple properties in St Petersburg, including the Trezzini Palace hotel where he was photographed with Ambassador Freddy Mapouka, a senior official in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Thursday, July 27.
Wagner has deployed several hundred of its mercenaries in the diamond-rich CAR, supporting the government in its struggle against rebel groups. The UK imposed sanctions on the two heads of Wagner’s operations in CAR last week, accusing them of torture and killing civilians.
Prigozhin was reported as welcoming some of his fighters as they arrived in Belarus on July 20, telling them they would be there “for some time,” wouldn’t be returning to Ukraine anytime soon and should instead prepare for operations in Africa.
A voice message released on a Telegram associated with the Wagner group branded Niger’s military coup as good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.
Soldiers from Niger’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum on Wednesday, while another group of soldiers announced his overthrow, closed the country’s borders, suspended state institutions, declared a curfew, and announced the formation of a military junta and the installation of General Abdourahamane Tchiani as the head of a transitional government.
While Prigozhin did not claim that either he or Wagner members had been involved in the coup, he hailed it as the long-overdue liberation from Western colonizers and offered the services of the PMC to help keep order.
Prigozhin’s message which was posted on Thursday evening said “What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonizers. With colonizers who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago.
“Today this is effectively gaining their independence. The rest will without doubt depend on the citizens of Niger and how effective governance will be, but the main thing is this: they have got rid of the colonizers,” the message said.
This might not only explain why he was there at the same time as Putin’s African get-together but indeed may well have been encouraged to do so by the Kremlin. If Wagner takes on yet another African mission it could be an opportunity to get Prigozhin out of the way – out of sight and out of mind.
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