Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is currently in St. Petersburg, and not Belarus as agreed after an attempted insurrection at the end of June, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday.
Prigozhin had reportedly traveled to Belarus as part of a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin following the failed uprising, but on Wednesday Lukashenko told CNN’s Matthew Chance that the Wagner leader is in Russia.
“In terms of Yevgeny Prigozhin, he is in St. Petersburg. Or maybe this morning he would travel to Moscow or elsewhere,” Lukashenko said in response to a question from Chance during a press conference with international media in Minsk. “But he is not on the territory of Belarus now.”
Also on Thursday, Russian state media released footage which purports to show a police raid on Prigozhin’s office and residence in St. Petersburg, stepping up an apparent propaganda campaign against the Wagner boss.
The footage – described by TV presenters as “scandalous” – shows what is described as a stash of gold, money and wigs, along with weapons and several passports apparently belonging to Prigozhin under different aliases.
Until recently, Russian state television lionized Wagner’s operations in Ukraine, but the outlets now appear to be vilifying the founder of the private military company following the failed uprising.
A lengthy segment aired on state television detailed Prigozhin’s criminal past, including allegations of robbery and assault as well as a lengthy sentence in a penal colony in the 1980s.
Russian state TV presenters said “there were also guns and a collection of passports with the same photo but with different names and surnames.”
Presenters also mentioned that “suspicious packages” were found during a search, insinuating that they might be drugs.
In a separate segment, Russia 24 aired a video of police raiding his office and several photographs of a richly decorated house where a wardrobe full of differently colored wigs can be seen.
Russian state television often airs dramatic footage of what are described as raids by security services and foiled terrorist plots.
Experts and human rights advocates say Russian authorities have a pattern of fabricating criminal cases against the Kremlin’s political challengers.