Published On: Wed, Mar 27th, 2024
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Vladimir Putin uses his own ‘personal Frankenstein’s monster’ to expand Russian empire | World | News

Vladimir Putin is reportedly trying to take over the Wagner Group’s profitable operations launched in Africa by late warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin and expand Russia‘s influence in the continent.

To bolster Russia‘s presence in the continent, the Kremlin is funding the mercenary group previously led by the Russian magnate as “Putin’s personal Frankenstein’s monster”, according to an expert.

Between 2018 and 2023, the co-founder of the Wagner Group was able to strike partnerships with a number of junta rulers and military leaders in the Sahel region, claiming the mercenaries’ goal was to bring stability and protection to the countries they were deployed in.

The deals would see the Russian mercenaries propping up governments through disinformation and paramilitary support in exchange for access to the profitable gold and diamond mines scattered around the area and timber plantations.

Following the plane crash that claimed the lives of the warlord and two other leading members of the Wagner Group in August 2023, the network created by Prigozhin was expected to be disrupted.

However, “Russia’s security operations in Africa have resurged to a scale and pace unseen since the end of the Cold War”, as noted by expert Lisa Klaassen.

The researcher at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations said Moscow’s strategy in the Sahel has been “revitalised” in recent months, with natural resources being plundered by the countries in an agreement with Wagner. Moreover, settlements described as “Little Russia” are expanding in various nations.

The Africa Corps, as the Wagner operations in the continent were renamed, shared on social media in January pictures of soldiers in Burkina Faso, adding in a statement that a “Russian contingent of 100 people will ensure the safety of the country’s leader, Ibrahim Traoré, and the Burkinabe people from terrorist attacks”.

More troops would join the men already on the ground, the message eerily promised.

Still, Ms Klaassen noted the takeover by the Russian Ministry of Defence is not yet completed.

She wrote in the New Statesman: “Wagner is being funded as Putin’s personal Frankenstein’s monster. In an effort to preserve the militia’s success, Wagner logos, badges and banners continue to festoon soldiers, vehicles, gold mines and other privately owned entities in Mali and CAR.

“Yet the group’s future existence will largely depend on whether Africa Corps can revive the personal, elite-to-elite loyalties cultivated throughout the region by the larger-than-life elder Prigozhin. When it comes to wooing African kingpins – who rule on patronage-based politics – the ceremonial state visits by Yunus-bek Yevkurov, Russia’s buckram deputy defence minister, have not been successful.”

During its years of operations in Africa, Wagner has been accused by independent media and the United Nations of carrying out atrocities against the local population while being ineffective in countering terrorism and bringing stability.

A report released in February by the US Department of State’s Global Engagement Center titled ‘The Wagner Group’s Atrocities in Africa: Lies and Truth’ read: “Wherever Wagner deploys a stark rise in civilian deaths follows.”

It added: “According to The Economist, Wagner killed at least 1,800 African civilians as of August 2023. Wagner justifies its brutal presence in Africa as ‘supporting peace and stability’. However, in Mali alone, terrorist violence against civilians since 2021 has surged by 278 percent.”

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