Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the unruly head of the Wagner mercenary group, appears to have resurfaced in Belarus to deliver a welcome speech to his fighters who had been deployed there as part of a deal that ended his brief mutiny last month, according to a video published on Wednesday by at least three Telegram channels associated with the group.
In the video, filmed at dusk, a man whose silhouette and voice closely resemble Mr. Prigozhin, said that the Wagner fighters will stay in Belarus for some time to train its army, with the goal of turning it into the best army in the world outside of Russia.
In the aftermath of the aborted mutiny, the fate of the Wagner group appeared to be in limbo. Last week, President Vladimir V. Putin said that its troops could continue fighting but without their pugnacious leader.
On the video, however, Mr. Prigozhin appears to still be the head of a large group of fighters. He did not tone down his criticism of the Russian top commanders, calling the situation on the front lines in Ukraine a “disgrace” that Wagner fighters “should not participate in.” He also left open the possibility Wagner forces would return to combat in Ukraine.
“We need to wait for the moment when we can prove ourselves fully,” the figure believed to be Prigozhin says on the video, his face never fully shown. “Perhaps we will return to the special military operation, unless we are forced to shame ourselves and our experience.”
The Times verified that the video was filmed at a Wagner camp in the village of Tsel’ near the town of Asipovichy, about 50 miles southeast of the Belarusian capital Minsk. It was filmed on Tuesday evening.
To verify the videos, the Times compared features seen in them — two large buildings and uniquely colored tents — to the same features that appear in satellite imagery captured on Wednesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Belarusian monitoring group Hajun Project tracked a jet previously associated with Mr. Prigozhin until it landed at a military airfield south of the capital, Minsk.
Early on Wednesday, after the video at the camp was filmed, the same aircraft was tracked leaving Belarus and flying toward Moscow. The Times previously reported that columns of Wagner Group vehicles arrived at the camp on Monday.
In the video, the man closely resembling Mr. Prigozhin is seen speaking in front of hundreds of fighters who clapped and whistled. After finishing, he turn s the floor over to Dmitri Utkin, the mercenary whose nom de guerre, Wagner, gave the group its name. “This is not the end,” Mr. Utkin says. “This is the beginning of the biggest task in the world.”
Last week, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense said that Wagner fighters were training its military in defense and battlefield tactics, and state television reported the mercenaries had already begun instructing regular troops near Asipovichy. The report could not be independently confirmed.
Since Mr. Prigozhin’s abruptly halted his mutiny on June 24, the Kremlin has publicly worked to to diminish Mr. Prigozhin’s role in Russian politics and downplay his part in the war effort. His media empire, including several news websites, has been shut down. Russian state television has portrayed him as a petty and immoral thug hoarding cash, weapons, passports, and possibly drugs.