Wagner Chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Makes Public Appearance at Russia-Africa Summit
Prigozhin Present at St. Petersburg Summit
Notorious Russian businessman and the man behind the controversial private military contractor Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, emerged publicly at a Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg. The images of his casual interactions at the summit circulated on social media on Thursday, just a month after he launched a failed rebellion.
In the pictures, Prigozhin, donning casual jeans and a white shirt, is seen mingling and shaking hands with foreign dignitaries. One of the snapshots shared by an Africa-based aide on Facebook shows himin a cordial exchange with an official from the Central African Republic (CAR).
This official, as per the watchdog group All Eyes on Wagner, is the chief of protocol to Faustin Touadera, the CAR President.
The appearance is particularly notable as hundreds of Wagner mercenaries are reported to have recently arrived in the CAR. This happens as the country is preparing for a constitutional referendum that could lift presidential term limits, potentially enabling President Touadera to seek another term.
Another image features Prigozhin shaking hands with the director of Afrique Media. Both photographs were reportedly taken at the summit hosted by President Vladimir Putin.
In an ensuing post, the Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel, Orchestra Wagner, even went on to take credit for the recent coup in Niger. The claim remains unverified independently.
The ongoing military instability in Niger poses a threat to the stability of the region, especially as Niger represents one of the remaining Western allies in Africa’s Sahel region.
"Yevgeny Prigozhin continues to strengthen the positions and influence of Russia and Wagner in Africa. The coup in Niger is proof of that," declared the Orchestra Wagner channel. Despite this claim, primary channels typically utilized by Prigozhin have been conspicuously silent.
The social media posts seem to demonstrate Prigozhin’s unfazed influence and presence, particularly during a summit under the aegis of President Putin. Prigozhin led a failed mutiny last month that saw his troops march within 200 km of Moscow.
Relations have been tense since Putin ceased a U.N.-sanctioned agreement that permitted grain exports from Ukraine, a nation Russia invaded 17 months ago, through the Black Sea. The summit, attended by only 17 African leaders, indicated a potential cooling of relations with Africa, a continent that has traditionally maintained close ties with Moscow.
Prigozhin’s public appearances have been sporadic and mysterious, particularly following the recent unsuccessful uprising. It's believed that he met Putin in Moscow post the failed rebellion and was recently sighted in Belarus, where he has positioned some of his troops.