Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia's feared Wagner Group, has sent a bizarre and chilling message in his latest recruitment video, sparking World War Three fears.
Urging young Russians to join his mercenary organisation,, he promises that members of Putin’s “private army” will be “in good shape for the upcoming Third World War”.
The Wagner Group – which has undertaken missions for Putin in Syria, Libya and Sudan – has expanded massively since the Russian invasion off Ukraine, even recruiting lags from Russia’s prisons.
READ MORE: Inside The Wagner Group – Putin's secret army waging bloody war on NATO's borders
But Prigozhin is keen to add even more troops to his army, uploading a video in which he says: “Sign up for PMC Wagner, you’ll learn a man’s job and will be in good shape for the upcoming World War Three…”
A Russian offensive spearheaded by Wagner troops is on the brink of driving Ukrainian forces out of Bakhmut in the strategically significant Donetsk Oblast, and the force has become an increasingly important part of Putin’s war effort.
But there’s a suspicion, too, that Prigozhin is expanding his power base ahead of an internal struggle within the Kremlin.
He’s engaged in a war of words with Alexey Stolyarov, son-in-law of Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
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Prigozhin has said the 33-year-old fitness influencer should be raped or “given the sledgehammer” because he hasn’t joined up to fight in Ukraine.
In response to Stolyarov making YouTube videos about his holiday in Africa, Prigozhin labelled the defence minister’s son a coward: “I can give instructions on what needs to be done – it is necessary to catch Stolyarov and bring him to me,' Prigozhin said.
“I will train him for six weeks. I will help him improve by sending him to combat operations. Before that he can be [raped].'
Prigozhin added: “We ought to pick up a sledgehammer, and deal with it in an adult way, all joking aside'.
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Prigozhin is at odds with Shoigu because he blames the defence boss with the lack of adequate equipment for his men at the front line.
Many Russian fighters – both regular army and mercenaries – have complained about the poor quality of arms and armour they have been issued.
But even though the Wagner Group is taking horrific casualties – with by some estimates 80% of the military contractor’s force dead or injured – some people still want to sign up with Prigozhin.
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A video emerged this week of 10 Russian soldiers, who said their unit had been almost completely wiped out and disbanded, still preferred their chance of survival with Wagner.
The “combat ready “men asked to be allowed to join Wagner's’ ranks.
There’s no word on whether the transfer was allowed.
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