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Tags: russia | putin | wagner | group | paramilitary | africa

Russia Also Using Paramilitary Wagner Group Outside Ukraine

Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner Group. (Sergei Ilnitsky/AP)

By    |   Monday, 09 January 2023 10:44 AM EST

Russia is using the paramilitary Wagner Group to influence operations in countries besides Ukraine, Politico reported.

The Kremlin is relying on the private military group in Africa and Europe, Politico reported.

The Biden administration last month downgraded classified intelligence saying the Wagner Group was recruiting prisoners and launching offensives in Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The media outlet, citing obtained cables, reported that officials also are gathering intelligence related to the Wagner Group’s activities in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali, and Serbia.

Russia is using the Wagner Group, owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, to fight anti-Putin sentiment and defend government mining interests.

U.S. officials have tracked the Wagner Group's international activities for years. Recent statements from U.S. officials, though, indicate the administration is concerned about Russia’s reliance on the group, and its involvement in countries where the U.S. and allies hold business and diplomatic relationships, Politico reported.

Politico said the obtained information shows how the U.S. is tracking the Wagner Group’s movements in the Central African Republic and Serbia, where it poses a threat to local forces and officials.

"There's been a growing focus on Russia's relationship in Africa and in building a sphere of influence that really hasn’t existed since the end of the Cold War," said Catrina Doxsee, the associate director and associate fellow for the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Politico reported.

"The use of private military companies, particularly as we’ve seen in countries with weak governance, ongoing security challenges, and enriched natural resources, sets [Wagner] up to either carry out … security agreements or to facilitate future diplomatic relationships with those countries."

Although Prigozhin and Wagner have been under U.S. sanctions for years, the Biden administration last month took steps to make it more difficult for the private military group to access any equipment that has U.S. technology.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters last sanctions and export controls have forced Wagner to seek partners across the world to supply tools to support its operations. North Korea already has completed an initial arms delivery.

Bloomberg reported last month that Biden administration is considering designating Wagner as a terrorist organization.

"There are a handful of different concerns that we have when we’re seeing them operate in a place like Africa," Doxsee said. "A big implication is Russia’s ability to spread its own power projection and intelligence capabilities — not only by displacing Western military intelligence capabilities — but also [through] the pursuit of new basing rights and other opportunities that would give them access to strategically important locations."

In mid-December, Kirby estimated that the Wagner Group had 50,000 personnel — 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts from Russian prisons — deployed to Ukraine.

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Russia is using the paramilitary Wagner Group to influence operations in countries besides Ukraine, Politico reported.
russia, putin, wagner, group, paramilitary, africa
Monday, 09 January 2023 10:44 AM
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