The Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), a notorious Russian paramilitary organization, has come to the fore for its role in the war in Ukraine, but the group has been politically active in many countries for years.
Since its inception in 2014, Wagner Group contractors have been deployed in numerous wars abroad, including those in Syria, Yemen, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Libya, where they protect leaders and commanders of ruling or incoming militias to fill loopholes. of security. In return, the Wagner group receives cash or lucrative opportunities for its services, including access to valuable mines and resources.
In 2017, for example, the Wagner group deployed some 500 fighters to Sudan to help quell street protests against the rule of dictator Omar al-Bashir. In exchange, the group received exclusive rights to gold mines in the country. According to the consulting firm Brookings, Moscow also received a naval base in the Red Sea.
The Wagner group, led by its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, also operated in the Central African Republic (CAR), where it is believed to have more influence. The group got its start in the CAR when it was hired to protect the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra against rebel attacks. As payment, Wagner-affiliated subsidiaries received unrestricted stumpage rights and control of the Ndassima gold mine, where they are said to earn some $2.7 billion.
However, the Wagner group not only protects the Touadéra government. He has also been accused of perpetrating serious human rights violations in the CAR, targeting the civilian population and mine workers in the framework of “clean-up operations.”
“We massacred many civilians,” declared an RCA fighter who was a member of the Wagner group. “That bothers me a lot. The Russians gave the orders; they say it’s mandatory. There were many executions in the mines with the Russians; we killed the workers, we recovered the [mining] products.”
In addition to those mentioned, the Wagner group is suspected of having a presence in Algeria, South Sudan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, according to Statista.
The Kremlin has denied any links to the Wagner group despite its boss being dubbed “Putin’s chef.” However, the Kremlin could soon regulate the group after Prigozhin led an insurrection against Moscow over the weekend.