WAGNER chief Yevegeny Prigozhin appeared to break cover for the first time since his botched rebellion as he welcomed his fighters to Belarus.
A man who appeared to be Prigozhin was filmed addressing hundreds of fighters
Hundreds of troops can be seen lined up as Prigozhin welcomes them to Belarus
APMystery has surrounded the whereabouts of the Wagner warlord[/caption]
In a video posted on pro-Wagner Telegram channels, a Prigozhin dressed in blue jeans and a black jacket was filmed addressing hundreds of fighters.who appeared to be
“Welcome lads… welcome to Belarusian soil,” he said in the video shot at dusk.
The footage comes just days after Russia threatened to use Wagner fighters to invade Nato’s “weakest link” in Poland and Lithuania – and strike from Belarus in “a matter of hours”.
During Prigozhin’s speech, he rallied his troops – branding the Ukraine frontline a “disgrace” that Wagner should not take part in.
Prigozhin told his men to behave – and ordered them to train up the Belarusianto become the “second best in the world”.
“We fought honourably,” he said.
“You have done a great deal for Russia. What is going on at the front is a disgrace that we do not need to get involved in.
“Therefore a decision was taken for us to station here in Belarus for some time. I am sure that during this time we will make the Belarusian army second greatest in the world.
“And if needed, we will defend them if it comes to it.”
The Wagner boss also told his fighters to collect their strength for a “new journey to Africa” – and not to offend Belarusian women.
“And perhaps we will return to the SMO (special military operation in Ukraine) at some point when we are sure that we will not be forced to shame ourselves,” Prigozhin said.
A man who sounded like Dmitry Utkin, who helped found Wagner, then spoke to the men.
The footage has not yet been verified – and it’s not clear when it was taken.
Analysts have suggested it was filmed at a base near Asipovičy – a town in the Mogilev region of Belarus.
Prigozhin’s mutiny was halted at the eleventh hour after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko intervened and said Wagner fighters could be housed in Belarus.
Prigozhin’s whereabouts has not been confirmed since he marched on Moscow in the extraordinary armed rebellion.
Conflicting reports over the last three weeks suggested he was still in Russia, possibly purged by Putin – or even dead.
Last week, an embarrassing image emerged of the warlord sitting on a camp bed in his pants.
But the latest video marks what could be a significant development in finally confirming his whereabouts – and future plans.
Earlier, Sir Richard Moor, the head of MI6, said he was aware Prigozhin had tea with Putin in recent days – despite the Russian leader calling him a “traitor”.
The footage comes after a top Putin parliamentarian claimed on TV that Wagner mercenaries was ready to strike from Belarus.
For the West, it is the only land link to the three ex-Soviet Baltic republics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – which are seen as vulnerable to Putin if current tensions worsen.
For Russia, control of the corridor would give a land link between the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, main base of Putin’s Baltic Fleet, and firm Kremlin ally Belarus.
Reservist Colonel General Andrey Kartapolov said: “It is clear that Wagner went to Belarus to train the Belarusian armed forces…
“There is such a place as the Suwalki Corridor.
“Should anything happen, we need this Suwalki Corridor very much…
“A strike force [based in Wagner forces in Belarus] is ready to take this corridor in a matter of hours.”
His “shock fist” land grab plan would hit sparsely populated territory which has been labelled Nato’s “Achilles heel” or “soft underbelly”.
Because it could be the first point of contact in a third world war, the corridor has been branded “the most dangerous place on earth”.
A Russian move here with state-backed Wagner would likely trigger Nato’s clause 5 – setting the alliance against Russia.
Poland is rapidly rearming due to the threat from Moscow, and Germany is to deploy 4,000 troops permanently in Lithuania as Nato strengthens its presence in the Baltic states.
Prigozhin ordered his troops to train up the Belarusian army to become the ‘second best in the world’