For the first time since the Wagner mercenaries’ failed rebellion against the Russian military in June, the group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was seen in St. Petersburg, meeting an African dignitary on the sidelines of a summit, the media reported.
According to accounts associated with the mercenary group, the meeting took place on Thursday and the dignitary is part of the Central African Republic delegation to the Russia-Africa summit, reports CNN.
For several years, Wagner had a presence in the Central African Republic.
A photo of the meeting was also doing the rounds on social media, showing the two men shaking hands.
CNN geolocated the photograph of Prigozhin and the dignitary to the Trezzini Palace Hotel in St. Petersburg.
According to Russian media, the Wagner chief has kept an office in the hotel premises.
The hotel was one of the locations searched by Russian authorities on July 6, after the June 24 rebellion.
Since then, Prigozhin had only been seen in public on July 19, when he seemingly appeared in a video inside Belarus, apparently greeting Wagner fighters at a base in Asipovichy.
During the rebellion, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had claimed that he convinced his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin not to “destroy” Wagner and Prigozhin, which led to a halt in the mutiny.
Prigozhin founded Wagner as a shadowy mercenary outfit that fought both in Ukraine and, increasingly, for Russian-backed causes around the world.
CNN has tracked Wagner mercenaries in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya, Mozambique, Ukraine and Syria.
Over the years they have developed a gruesome reputation and were been linked to multiple human rights abuses.
After Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Wagner forces were heavily involved in taking the Ukrainian cities of Soledar and Bakhmut.