Russia’s Wagner mercenaries say they’re forming a border militia

Russia’s Wagner mercenaries say they’re forming a border militia


The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Friday his organization had begun training civilians in Russia’s border areas with Ukraine to form a militia and build fortifications.

“Wagner helps and will help the population in the border areas to learn how to construct engineering structures, train them and organize a militia,” Prigozhin was quoted as saying by the press service of his company Concord.

He said that “a large number of people are already ready to defend their country”.

Prigozhin said Wagner’s main goal is to start building fortifications and training schools in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, which have regularly come under fire in recent months in attacks Moscow blames on the Ukrainian army.

“If you want peace, prepare for war,” he said, insisting that every Russian has the right to defend his homeland as he sees fit.

Prigozhin first announced in September that he founded the Wagner Group in 2014 to fight in Ukraine, acknowledging its presence in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

This came after he and the Kremlin had long denied the group’s existence. Service as a mercenary remains illegal for Russians.

Wagner’s fighters were at the forefront of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, and in September video surfaced that appeared to show Prigozhin visiting a prison and offering inmates contracts to fight in exchange for their release.

Ukrainian officials say Prigozhin sent thousands of soldiers recruited from Russian prisons to the front lines.

Prigozhin, who has also long been accused of running a “troll factory” to influence votes in Western countries, on Monday admitted to meddling in the US election.

The 61-year-old, who used to be a shadowy figure, is becoming a growing public figure and analysts say he may be considering a political role.

This month, Wagner opened a headquarters in Russia’s second largest city, Saint Petersburg.

Prigozhin on Thursday complained that the city’s governor Yevgeny Beglov refused to run the center and accused him of promoting the interests of “Ukrainian nationalists.”

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