- Kremlin diplomats flew abroad hours after Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced a rebellion.
- According to The Wall Street Journal, the diplomats flew to Mali and Syria, and phoned into the Central African Republic.
- Their message was uniform: the Kremlin’s missions abroad would remain unchanged, and Wagner reports to the Kremlin now.
Russian diplomats jetted to Africa and the Middle East hours after Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin attempted an armed rebellion to reassure allied leaders that the Russian government was in control.
According to the Wall Street Journal, diplomats with Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations flew to Mali and Syria after Prigozhin announced a mutiny on Moscow last week. The diplomats made their way to countries where Russia has relied on Wagner mercenaries to fight their proxy wars — telling the leaders that Wagner would report to the Kremlin now.
Kremlin diplomats personally reassured Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that Wagner would continue operating in the country, but not independently, according to the Journal. The Journal sourced the update through Wagner defectors, anonymous diplomats and intelligence officials close to the conversations, and through tracking international flight data.
And in Mali, leaders were reassured that they could continue to rely on Wagner mercenaries, who would be under the Kremlin’s direct command, the Journal reported.
Members of the Kremlin’s foreign ministry also called the leader of the Central African Republic — who employs Wagner mercenaries as his bodyguards — assuring that the Kremlin’s mission would remain unchanged.
Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that since last year, his government has paid Wagner close to $1 billion. Prigozhin, whose background was as a caterer for the military, was seen as a crucial Putin ally prior to his failed rebellion.
Wagner forces played a key role in capturing the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and many of the 30,000 mercenaries employed by the company have fought for Kremlin interests in Syria and Africa.
Last week, Prigozhin accused Russia’s defense ministry of carrying out a missile strike against Wagner positions at an undisclosed location in Ukraine, which he claimed had killed a “huge amount” of mercenaries.
In the tirade, Prigozhin said Russia’s defense ministry “must be stopped” and the individuals responsible for the death of Wagner fighters must be punished. Moscow’s security services quickly responded by announcing a criminal case against Prigozhin, charging him with inciting an armed rebellion.
Within a day, Wagner fighters captured the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, and headed towards Moscow. By Saturday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had brokered a peace deal, forcing Prigozhin to call off the coup in exchange for immunity in Belarus.
During the days of tension, Wagner fighters shot down several Russian aircraft, killing the pilots. The mutiny was unsuccessful in part because Prigozhin’s plans were leaked ahead of time, the Journal reported.