Cryptic Wagner warning sparks Putin panic as busloads of mercenaries return to Russia | World | News


Vladimir Putin’s deal with the Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin collapsed earlier this month, according to a US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This has prompted hundreds of Wagner forces to return to Russia en masse, according to sources within the Kremlin’s inner circle. Many of these mercenary troops are being bused to areas close to Moscow, sparking concern about a second coup against the Russian leader.

The ISW report quotes a senior Wagner leader who told his troops to “keep in touch because new orders could come at any time”.

This Wagner leader said that the majority of the mercenary forces returning to Russia will “activate” at the end of this month.

While it remains unclear what the term “activate” refers to, the sudden influx of armed veterans into Russia could present a significant security threat to President Putin.

The original deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko brought an end to a short-lived uprising against the Kremlin and the Russian defence ministry.

The peace deal required Wagner forces to relocate to Belarus, which had quickly set up camps for the fighters.

However, the deal broke down this month after President Lukashenko discovered that Russia would not be financing the mercenaries, with Belarus instead having to foot the bill.

Since the collapse of the deal, up to 600 Wagner forces have been taken by bus back into western Russian provinces.

Hundreds more are expected to follow on Sunday.

A small group of Wagner instructors are expected to remain in Belarus to train Belarusian forces.

The ISW said that President Putin “is likely still concerned about the threat that Prigozhin poses to his long-term goals”.

They claimed that the Russian leader had tried and failed to “separate Prigozhin from Wagner.”

It is thought that many forces in Wagner feel personally loyal to Mr Prigozhin.

Meanwhile, Mr Prigozhin has offered his support to the recent coup leaders in Niger.

Wagner has a strong presence in Africa with up to 1,000 troops each in Mali and Libya as well as nearby Sudan.

Mr Prigozhin blamed the situation in Niger on the legacy of colonialism and accused the West of funding terrorist groups in the country.

He said: “What happened in Niger has been brewing for years

“The former colonisers are trying to keep the people of African countries in check.”

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