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Russian warlord expands activity in Africa on behalf of Moscow, creating foothold in vital region

Russia’s mercenary group Wagner, led by warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, has expanded its activities in Africa, with suspected direct action in conflict zones and dozens of efforts to help secure resources in the whole continent

“Outside Ukraine, [Wagner’s] The presence in Africa is the most widespread,” John Hardie, deputy director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Russia program, told Fox News Digital. “It’s really across the continent.”

The U.S. Treasury earlier this year designated Wagner “a major transnational criminal organization,” giving Washington the ability to sanction individuals and the group’s support network “across multiple continents.”

More recently, Wagner has stepped out of the shadows in Africa after months of rumors that the group was operating there. The Central African Republic alone has recorded around 1,890 “Russian instructors” supporting government troops in the ongoing civil war, German media outlet DW reported.

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The group was founded in 2014 but found recent prominence in the invasion of Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin leaned more heavily on the group to bolster his forces after heavy losses in the early months of the war

Hardie described Wagner as part of founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s network, though the crown jewel of his operations, along with political technologists, troll farms and other information operations.

“The network is obviously partly a proxy for the Kremlin, so where the Kremlin is interested, Wagner and Prigozhin will follow,” Hardie said.

“Wagner is also a money-making business, in a sense. It’s able to make money from mining concessions, and so on, in Africa, as well as its security partnerships with guys like Sudan and so on.

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A US cable sent in January and reviewed by Politico claimed Wagner could earn $1 billion in mining profits from its operations in the Central African Republic alone, which the group would funnel into new weapons and fighters, according to a Western official .

But Wagner may also have entered conflict zones. Leaked US intelligence documents cited “a successful strike not attributed to Libya” that “destroyed a Wagner logistics aircraft,” which is part of a larger Wagner fleet, according to The Washington Post.

According to the documents, Wagner has operated in at least 13 countries, eight of which are in Africa.

One such conflict includes Wagner’s efforts in February of this year, during which the mercenaries attempted to recruit rebels in the country of Chad and set up a training site for 300 fighters in the neighboring Central African Republic as part of ‘an “evolving plot to overthrow the country”. Chadian government,” the Post reported.

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Sudan also plays an important role in Wagner’s plans. The group partnered with Omar al-Bashir and then the generals who toppled him, providing advisers and anti-riot material against a grassroots democracy movement, according to the US Institute of Peace.

In return, the Sudanese authorities granted a shell company linked to Wagner the rights to refine the gold ore and export it tax-free.

Wagner also sent fighters to support the ruling army in Mali against French-backed government forces.

Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, told Fox News that Digital Wagner is just “executing Putin’s Africa strategy.”

“The Kremlin has articulated a version of the big game, Putin’s big game in Africa,” Koffler explained. “Russia’s goals in Africa were officially stated and codified in Russia’s most recent foreign policy concept that Putin signed last March.

“The way they described it is just to ensure trade and economic cooperation, to ensure support for Africa and African countries and basically the typical propaganda. … But in reality, Putin wants to secure and maintain the settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean, including access to the naval port in the Red Sea and continue to extract natural resources from Africa.

“Russia has had ties to several countries in Africa since the USSR, and now they are capitalizing.”

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