This posting is really about Putin’s expansionary policies, and using mercenaries to gain control of countries. Central African Republic serves as just one example.
The invasion of Ukraine shows the world that Russia under Putin has little respect for international law and conventions. There are many countries which are vulnerable to Russia’s control, and Putin will take advantage of any weakness to exert maximum control. In a previous post, I explained how the leader of Chechnya, Ramon Kadyron, is essentially Putin’s puppet, through channeling funds directly to him. Two of his wives own property in Moscow, worth about 8 million dollars. So, not only can Kadyron enrich himself from stealing from his own country, being Putin’s constant ally has enormous fringe benefiits.
Central African Republic is about the same size as France. Geographically, it is located above the equator, bordered by two larger countries to the north, Chad and Sudan, and to the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is a very poor country, ranked 188 of 189 countries, based on human development. It has an abundance of mineral wealth, including gold and diamonds.
Wikipedia: Central African Republic
Russia, I believe, sees an opportunity to dominate the country due to the geographic strategic importance and mineral wealth. Plus, in a way, they were invited in. Prime Minister Touadera welcomed the assistance of the Russia’s mercenary force, the Wagner Group, to secure the diamond mines from rebel groups shortly after his election in 2014. As reported by the New York Times, updated May 4, 2020:
“But Russia’s help comes at a cost. Its representatives have struck deals with the government to mine diamonds where the trade is legal — one of many signs that Russia’s push into the country is closely tied to the profits it can reap.
Russian operatives have even partnered with murderous rebels to obtain diamonds in areas where the trade is outlawed, cashing in on the very lawlessness they have been brought in to end, according to members of the Central African government, Western officials and some of the warlords themselves.”
Links to New York Times article: Gems, Warlords and Mercenaries: Russia’s Playbook in Central African Republic (originally published September 30, 2019)
Wikipedia, Wagner Group
The link above identifies the many countries where the Wagner Group mercenaries are deployed. The “Russian operatives” are members of Russia’s Wagner group. It is headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin[a] (Russian: Евге́ний Ви́кторович Приго́жин; born 1 June 1961) is a Russian oligarch and close confidante of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin controls a network of companies including Wagner, a Russian state-backed mercenary group accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria, and Ukraine.
Further it is stated, “Prigozhin, his companies and associates face economic sanctions and criminal charges in the United States.” This is in connection to the Russian interference in US elections in 2016.
Per Wikipedia: Yevgeny Prigozhin
“In April 2022, during Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, it was reported that [Yevgeny] Prigozhin travelled to the Donbas to oversee personally Wagner Group’s campaign. He was pictured wearing military fatigues with Russian Duma member Vitaly Milonov who had travelled to the front line. In August 2022, Wagner Group began using billboards to recruit new members in Russia.
Former journalist and observer of the Group, Denis Korotkov said “It looks like they have decided that they will no longer try to hide their existence.”
Wow. Below is an AP photo of Yevgeny Prigozhin from 2016.
Wikipedia, Wagner Group
From Wikipedia, “Russian and some Western observers believe that the organization does not actually exist as a private military company but is in reality a disguised branch of the Russian MoD [Ministry of Defense] that ultimately reports to the Russian government. The company shares bases with the Russian military, is transported by Russian military aircraft, and uses Russia’s military health care services. The Russian state is also documented supporting the Wagner Group with passports.”
I left the reference numbers in, as these statements can all be verified. I believe CAR is going to be turned into another autocracy like Chechnya, subservient to Putin.
I also fear that Russia is using the Wagner group to gain control of Libya, through aiding Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army. National elections seem to be continually postponed. Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, and now, more than a decade later, the country is divided.
See link: Libya Could Be Putin’s Trump Card
The US is offering 10 million dollars reward for information on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Any additional information will most likely complete the various connections among Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the Wagner Group and Russia’s chief intelligence office (GRU).
See State Department link: Rewards for Justice
Please read the State Department statement. The Mueller investigation was not fake and the US State Department is taking very seriously the threat that Russia is posing to free and fair elections in the US.
There are other ways to hit back. Mercenaries in Ukraine posted a photo of their group, and the Ukrainians were quick to identify their location, allowing them to direct a missile strike against them.
So, the intervention of CAR by the Russians using a mercenary force is not an isolated incidence, but more of their overall game plan since at least 2014. Seeking help from Putin is make pact with the devil. It guarantees that the leaders will be rich, and not have to worry about re-election. In return, the government is just a puppet regime for Putin.