Russian Mercenaries Are Destabilizing Africa – by Colin P. Clarke (New York Times – January 31, 2023)

One of the groups that have risen to international prominence (or infamy) with the invasion of Ukraine is Wagner, a Kremlin-backed mercenary outfit that regularly employs former criminals. In Ukraine, they often fight when conventional Russian Army troops flee the battlefield, and they are noted for their brutality.

But it’s Wagner’s activities in Africa, especially the geopolitically important Sahel region, that require closer attention. Formed in 2014 by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime loyalist of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Wagner was created to support Russia’s initial foray into Ukraine nine years ago.

Since then, it has evolved into a shadowy network of mercenaries deployed throughout the globe. This includes a growing footprint in Africa, where Wagner has deployed forces to Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Mozambique and elsewhere.

Combining hard and soft power, Wagner’s forces are destabilizing poorly governed regions, like the Sahel, through wanton human rights abuses, rapacious resource extraction and covert disinformation efforts that meddle in the internal politics of the countries where they operate.

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