The Wagner mercenary group has provided fighters for hire across Africa and other countries, with the Kremlin’s approval. But what’s next for the global network — and the countries Wagner operates in — is uncertain after the group’s founder and leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, was killed in a plane crash north of Moscow, two months after he called off a 24-hour mutiny against his onetime ally and benefactor, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian authorities on Sunday confirmed that Prigozhin died in the crash on Aug. 23, citing DNA testing of bodies recovered from the site. Prior to his death, however, many inside and outside of Russia were shocked to see Prigozhin freely traveling in the country and abroad.
In June, after Prigozhin’s short-lived rebellion against Russia’s military leadership, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered some assurance to Wagner’s global clientele. He told RT, a state-controlled outlet, that “instructors” and “private military contractors” would remain in Mali and the Central African Republic, two strategic Russian and Wagner strongholds in Africa.
Prigozhin had also vowed to continue leading Wagner from Belarus, where he agreed to go into exile after refusing to let Russia’s regular army absorb his units in Ukraine. Putin said that fighters who sided with Prigozhin could go to Belarus, join the Russian security forces, or head home.
But Prigozhin didn’t just have mercenaries in Ukraine. Wagner fighters have popped up in more than a dozen countries over the past nine years, serving as security for Russian assets or host governments. Others have fought in battles. And Wagner said in June that Prigiozhin always operated internationally “in the interests of the Russian Federation.”
Here’s what to know about where Wagner Group has worked and the impact of its operations.