A new video appears to show Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin for the first time since he led an armed riot last month.
The mercenary leader is seen telling his troops that they will spend some time in Belarus training their military before deploying to Africa.
Channels on the messaging app linked to Prigozhin’s Wagner private military company said he spoke at a camp in Belarus and broadcast blurry video purporting to show him there, his silhouette seen against the sunset sky.
His gravelly voice was clearly distinguishable as he said: “Welcome guys! I am happy to greet you all. Welcome to the Belarusian land!”
“We fought with dignity! We have done a lot for Russia.”
The Prigozhin mutiny, which posed the most serious threat to Vladimir Putin’s 23-year rule, was branded by the mercenary boss as aimed at overthrowing Russia’s top military leaders whom he accused of incompetence.
His criticism of the conduct of the fighting in Ukraine was echoed in the new video, the authenticity of which could not be immediately verified.
Suggesting that Wagner’s forces could return to Ukraine in the future, he added: “What is happening at the front today is an embarrassment in which we should not participate.
“We can return to the special military operation when we are sure that we will not be forced to be ashamed of ourselves.
“We have to wait for the moment when we can show ourselves in full.
“That is why the decision was made that we would spend some time here in Belarus.
“During that time, we will make the Belarusian army the second strongest army in the world. We will train, raise our level and go on a new journey to Africa.”
In addition to their involvement in Ukraine, Wagner’s mercenaries have been sent to Syria and several African countries since the private army was created in 2014.
Under the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin agreed to end his rebellion in exchange for amnesty for himself and his fighters and permission to move to Belarus.
Before moving to Belarus, Wagner handed over his weapons to the Russian military, as part of efforts by Russian authorities to defuse the threat posed by mercenaries.
Until the video was posted on Wednesday, Prigozhin had posted only a couple of audio messages after the riot.
This is in stark contrast to the almost daily barrage of stormy statements leading up to the June events.
Some saw that as a sign that the deal required him to cut back on his rhetoric and stay away from politics.
Starting last week, several Wagner convoys carrying Russian flags and Wagner insignia entered Belarus and headed for a camp that the Belarusian authorities had offered to the company.
Wagner has also used camps in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region of Ukraine.
Prigozhin presented the flag to the cheering mercenaries in the video posted today.
Lukashenko has said his country’s armed forces could benefit from the mercenaries’ combat experience and rejected claims their presence could destabilize the former Soviet nation.
Last week, Belarusian state television broadcast a video of Wagner instructors training Belarusian territorial defense forces.
In their revolt that began on June 23 and lasted less than 24 hours, Prigozhin’s mercenaries swept through the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and captured the military headquarters there without firing a shot, before move as close as 200 kilometers (125 miles) to Moscow.
The mutiny faced little resistance and mercenaries shot down at least six military helicopters and a command post plane, killing at least 10 airmen.
Prigozhin had called it a “march of justice” to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov, who demanded that Wagner’s forces sign contracts with the Defense Ministry.
He ordered his troops to return to their camps after reaching an agreement to end the rebellion, the terms of which remain murky.
Putin has stated that Wagner’s troops had the option of signing contracts with the Defense Ministry, moving to Belarus, or withdrawing from service.
He said last week that he met with Prigozhin and 34 Wagner officers on June 29 and offered them the option of continuing to serve as a single unit under the same commander.