Skip to main content
ALM Feature

Wagner fractures in Syria, Libya amid conflict with Russia's Defense Ministry

A month after Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin's death in a plane crash, Russian authorities are attempting to assert control over the parallel military structure.
Members of Wagner group inspect a car in a street of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023. President Vladimir Putin on June 24, 2023 said an armed mutiny by Wagner mercenaries was a "stab in the back" and that the group's chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had betrayed Russia, as he vowed to punish the dissidents. Prigozhin said his fighters control key military sites in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

"Prigozhin is alive." The phrase remains among the most popular queries in Russia's Yandex search engine a month after the crash of the Embraer Legacy jet on Aug. 23 that killed Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin

Russian media outlets are also speculating about why nothing much is happening with Prigozhin's foreign and Russian assets so far. Moreover, thousands of Wagner’s mercenaries, despite the legislative and unofficial demands of the Russian Ministry of Defense to move under the control of the agency, continue to conduct combat operations abroad.

Trouble in Mali and the Central African Republic

Some doubt his demise because Wagner continues to survive. Its mercenaries are most active in Mali, the place where Prigozhin recorded his last address on the eve of the plane crash. Wagner's affiliated Telegram channels are quite full of new photos of Wagner fighters "on a raid," "in convoys" or "landing from a helicopter."

For instance, Wagner is actively engaged in combat operations on the side of the Malian Armed Forces in clashes with the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad in the Goa region. Over the past few weeks, two Wagner Mi-8 helicopters and an An-26 transport plane also suddenly crashed in Mali and the Central African Republic, raising more suspicions over the group's standing with the Kremlin. 

In the Central African Republic, for the first time, the body of one of Wagner's mercenaries fell into the hands of a rebel group known as Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation. Even without Prigozhin, Dmitri Utkin and Valery Chekalov, who were responsible for combat training and logistics and died in the Aug. 23 crash, Wagner is still involved in serious fighting. 

Enter: Yunus-Bek Yevkurov

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.