Russia’s interest in strengthening positions on the African continent is constantly growing. Under the pretext of assisting countries to overcome crisis, Russian military bases deployed there, with the arms supplies and the military contingent increasing significantly.
Russian mercenaries have already appeared in at least half a dozen African countries: in Sudan, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, DR Congo, and Libya. Moscow has signed cooperation agreements with about 20 countries of the continent. However, the mercenaries it sent were called upon to defend not the interests of peace in Africa, but to strengthen Russia’s geopolitical influence and to acquire economic advantages. In Madagascar, Russia, according to a BBC investigation, tried to influence the presidential elections. The same can be said as regards Zimbabwe and Guinea. In the CAR, various Russian companies have already received licenses to mine gold and diamonds.
In fact, the so-called Russian “instructors” are a paramilitary organization of the Russian state. Their sphere of influence covers not only participation in hostilities, but also the escort of civilian ships, oil and gas safety audits, participation in acts of sabotage and aircraft reconnaissance, and physical protection of some objects in the interests of Russian oligarchs, most of whom are the actual or nominal owners of the PMC. At the same time, Russian forces are practically not involved in operations to restore order. They primarily protect Russian investments and Russian staff who work for Russian companies.
Recently, the activities of the so-called group of the Russian mercenaries “Wagner” have received wide resonance. Formally, it is a private security organization, whose activities are associated with Evgeny Prigogin, a businessman close to Putin. According to the official version, the militants of the Wagner PMC are engaged in training soldiers, ensuring the safety of Russian businessmen and protecting high-ranking politicians.
At the same time, the PMC instills fear in local residents. In a recent UN report, a group of experts made serious allegations, including unjustified violence, spree murders and seizure of schools. Another UN group sounded the alarm back in March, accusing Russians of torture, rape, arbitrary arrests, forced displacement and executions. The BBC also has other evidence of civilian killings, which Wagner’s fighters are accused of. All the victims known to journalists are people who happened to be in places of active hostilities.
The scale of the group’s operations can be judged based on information from a tablet of one of the mercenaries found in February in Western Libya. The device had dozens of files in its memory: instructions for installing anti-personnel landmines and making improvised explosive devices, shootings from reconnaissance drones, military maps of combat zones, marked in Russian.
Confirmation of the presence of Russian militants in various African countries, reports of UN experts on human rights violations by mercenaries, a tablet with information about the activities of the Russian mercenaries – all this makes it impossible to deny the fact of PMC’s existence. As for a private military company with illegal status, the existence of which is not officially recognized, Wagner has declared itself too loudly and does not seem to be going to slow down. And since the activities of the Wagner PMC have become Russia’s worst-kept secret, the issue of whitening its reputation is becoming extremely important to them.
Military campaigns that go hand in hand with informational and agitation ones are the corporate handwriting of Russian interference. One of the ways to whitewash the reputation of the Wagner PMC and present Russia’s activities in the best light was the propaganda action movie “Tourist.” The plot is that the Russian military and soldiers heroically fight in the CAR with a horde of insurgents, inevitably bloodthirsty and supported by some advisor-Frenchman. Another, most recent example is the film “Burning Sun”, where events unfold in the unrecognized Luhansk People’s Republic, but the heroes are invariably the same mercenaries, represented, of course, by positive heroes. The commissioner and sponsor of both films is the same Evgeny Prigogin, who, nevertheless, continues to deny both his connection with the Wagner group and the financing of the films.
At the same time, we should not forget that the appetites of the Russian elite are not limited to Africa, which means that any crisis could potentially lead to a “friendly” visit of mercenaries with their “assistance”… In this regard, the biggest concerns are associated with the events in Afghanistan and response to them of the Russian authorities.
Thus, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee Viktor Zavarzin has already said that the situation in this region is difficult, and therefore it is necessary to help Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, claiming that “it is impossible to give our friendly states complete control of borders.” At the same time, he stated that he opposed sending Russian troops to the region. Who knows, maybe instead of them mercenaries of PMC “Wagner” will go again to settle the issue…