Wagner’s mercenary group has provided fighters for hire throughout Africa and other countries, with Kremlin approval. But what’s next for the global network, and the countries in which Wagner operates, is uncertain after the group’s founder and leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin called off a 24-hour riot against his former ally and benefactor on Saturday , Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, on Tuesday offered certain assurances, at least in the immediate term, to Wagner’s global clientele. He told RT, a state-controlled outlet, that “instructors” and “private military contractors” will remain in Mali and the Central African Republic, two strategic strongholds of Russia and Wagner in Africa. Lavrov denied reports of panic in countries where political and economic elites have come to depend on Russia’s mercenaries for arms and/or security. “I did not see any changes in the relations of relevant African countries with the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.
But what Wagner’s operations will look like after the mutiny remains in question. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a news conference Monday that the agency “doesn’t know what will happen to Wagner” or any possible “successor organization.”
Prigozhin promised in a Telegram message on Monday that he would continue to operate Wagner from Belarus, where he agreed to go into exile after refusing to let Russia’s regular army absorb his units in Ukraine. Hours later, Putin said fighters who sided with Prigozhin could go to Belarus, join Russian security forces or return home.
While Prigozhin’s rebellion affected mercenary units in Ukraine, over the past nine years Wagner fighters have appeared in more than a dozen countries. They have served as security for Russian assets or host governments. Others have fought on the battlefield. Wagner said Monday that he always operated internationally “in the interests of the Russian Federation.” On Tuesday, Putin said for the first time that Wagner was “fully funded by the state.”
Here’s what you need to know about where Wagner Group has worked and the impact of its operations.