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Prigozhin presumed dead, Wagner fighters ordered to swear allegiance to Russia

WorldPrigozhin presumed dead, Wagner fighters ordered to swear allegiance to Russia


Under the infamous Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s presence extends from the ancient battlegrounds of Syria to the deserts of sub-Saharan Africa, expanding the Kremlin’s global influence with mercenaries accused of using brutal force and profiting from seized mineral riches.
In what would become his final recruitment video, Prigozhin appeared in military fatigues, holding an assault rifle from an unidentified dry and dusty plain as he boasted that Wagner was “making Russia even greater on all continents and Africa even more free.” On Wednesday, a private jet carrying Prigozhin and his top lieutenants crashed northwest of Moscow, two months after he led an armed rebellion that challenged the authority of Russian President Vladimir Putin. There is wide speculation that the mercenary leader, who is presumed dead, was the target of an assassination because of the Wagner uprising, although the Kremlin continues to deny involvement.
The crash has raised questions about the future of Prigozhin’s private army, which fought alongside Russian troops in Ukraine before his brief uprising against military leaders in Moscow.
Russian authorities have cited the need to await DNA test results to confirm Prigozhin’s death, but President Putin expressed condolences after the jet fell from the sky. The Russian leader also ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state, effective immediately, according to a decree published on the Kremlin’s website late Friday.
The order came on the heels of Moscow’s denial of suggestions from Western officials and news media that the Wagner leader may have been killed on Putin’s orders. In African countries where Wagner provided security against extremist organisations like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, officials and commentators predicted Russia would likely maintain a presence, placing the mercenaries under new leadership. Others, however, say Prigozhin built deep, personal connections that Moscow could find challenging to replace quickly.

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