Yevgeny Prigozhin says Wagner will ‘be here in Belarus for some time’
Late-night footage this week reportedly showed an elated Yevgeny Prigozhin welcoming his army of fighters to Belarus, his new home.
The Wagner Group chief was exiled to the country after his failed mutiny late last month, agreeing with Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop his march on Moscow in return for leaving Russia.
While Wagner is no longer allowed to fight in the Ukraine war as per Putin’s orders, Prigozhin, in the video, hints that the group may well re-enter the conflict at a later date.
Confusion surrounds the former caterer to the Kremlin who built a restaurant empire in St Petersburg in the Nineties, and who rose alongside Putin.
While his involvement in Ukraine and Russia is uncertain, his and Wagner’s legacy has been cemented around the world where statues commemorating his mercenaries have been erected.
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One of these statues has appeared in the Central African Republic (CAF), where there are between 1,000 and 2,000 Wagner personnel stationed.
The group first moved into the country in 2018 to protect the government of Faustin-Archange Touadéra from rebels against the backdrop of a vicious civil war.
Touadéra has said he sought help from the international community but to no avail. So, he turned to Russia and eventually Wagner for help.
In exchange for their help, Wagner essentially pays itself in the country. Prigozhin has been given wide-ranging access and control of mines and free-reign to extract valuable natural resources.
Wagner was successful in suppressing the rebels in the CAF and has stayed in the country since. To thank them for their work, the CAF government commissioned a statue in the capital of Bangui.
Photos of the statue first turned up on November 28, 2021, on Telegram and other social media platforms.
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The statue is complex: it shows two soldiers, presumed to be Russian mercenaries, standing in front of two other soldiers who, it is believed, are meant to be members of CAR’s Central African Armed Forces (FACA). Each soldier protects a small family that is crouched down.
Visual analysis carried out by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab says the statues appear to serve a specific symbolic function.
A report published by the outfit read: “They are presented as military advisers or instructors, while the FACA troops are portrayed as actively defending the woman and her children, who in turn represent the people of the Central African Republic.”
Touadéra himself unveiled the statue, walking along a red carpet flanked by large crowds, escorted by Wagner mercenaries.
The report added: “Similar statues will likely continue to appear elsewhere as Wagner’s operational footprint expands, serving as a permanent soft-power visual presence. Wagner soldiers have been reported in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Libya, among other African countries.”
Several instances of Wagner Group statues popping up in other locations have arisen.
This includes in Ukraine, in the Luhansk Square of Molodoi Gvardii, where a statue of a soldier protecting a little girl was erected, it is believed, in early 2018 — predating Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by five years.
The same statue was found to exist in Palmyra, Syria, where the Wagner Group helped President Bashar al-Assad’s forces suppress a rebel-led revolution. Almost identical statues have also been found in Russia, in Krasnodar, where Wagner’s main training base is located.
Each of the statues featured in Ukraine, Syria, and Russia shows soldiers with highly similar kneepads, boots, vests, weapons and additional gear.
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