A video emerged on Wednesday that appears to show Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin greeting his fighters in Belarus, in what would be his first public appearance since he led an armed rebellion in Russia last month.
“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,” a man resembling and sounding like Prigozhin says in the video, which was posted on pro-Wagner Telegram channels on Wednesday and then shared on Prigozhin’s account.
Prigozhin’s rebellion posed one of the biggest challenges to the long rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He played a prominent role in the invasion of Ukraine and since the uprising his whereabouts have been unclear.
In the video, a fighter seemingly addresses the Wagner leader as “Yevgeny Viktorovich,” Prigozhin’s first name and patronymic. The video appears unedited and metadata on the file suggests it could have been created at dusk on Tuesday, July 18 or at dawn on Wednesday, July 19.
Some key context: The Belarusian Hajun Project, an activist monitoring group that tracks military activity in the country, reported on Wednesday that Prigozhin’s plane landed in Machulishchy, on the outskirts of the capital Minsk, at 11:05 a.m. local time, on July 18, and left at 12:15 a.m. local time on July 19, indicating the video was likely filmed on July 18. The video appears unedited and the metadata on the file, as well as the position of the sun in the footage, suggests it was likely filmed at dusk on July 18.
The video is grainy and filmed in low light so CNN cannot definitively say the speaker is Prigozhin or when it was filmed.
CNN has geolocated the video to a previously disused military base in Asipovichy, roughly 80 kilometers (nearly 50 miles) southeast of the capital of Minsk. A CNN team visited this very same base on July 6.
In the video, the individual seemed to maintain his criticism of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s planning and execution of military operations in Ukraine.
The person also goes on to suggest their stay in Belarus could be temporary and calls on his fighters to prepare to travel elsewhere.
Earlier on Wednesday, the UK's intelligence chief told CNN that Prigozhin is alive and at liberty, and he claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin had no choice but to reach an agreement with the Wagner leader in order to end the short-lived rebellion.