The Fate of Wagner’s African Empire amidst the Rift between Putin and Prigozhin

**Russian Mercenary Group to Continue Operations in Africa, Kremlin Says**

Russia’s Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, will be allowed to maintain its extensive operations in Africa, particularly in the Central African Republic (CAR), as the Kremlin seeks to preserve its influence on the resource-rich continent. The deal, backed by President Vladimir Putin, comes as Russia aims to protect its gains in Africa following a recent mutiny. Wagner has been instrumental in advancing Russia’s foreign policy in Africa at a fraction of the cost, while also undermining the influence of the US and France. However, as the US tries to use the mutiny to remove the mercenary group from Africa, Russia is taking swift action to safeguard its interests.

**Russia’s Efforts to Retain Influence in Africa**

Russia has been scrambling to maintain its influence in Africa, particularly in the CAR, in the wake of an attempted mutiny. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been working to reassure African counterparts that Russia remains committed to a network of security partnerships, including providing military instructors to the CAR. Additionally, Russia will host its second Africa summit in St. Petersburg to further reinforce engagement with African nations.

**Controversy Surrounding Wagner Group’s Operations**

The US has accused Wagner Group of operating combat roles in the CAR, while Russia has labeled them as military instructors. Due to the Defense Ministry’s limitations, Wagner’s complex operations in the CAR cannot be immediately taken over. Furthermore, private contractors may still be needed to achieve Russia’s foreign policy objectives in Sudan and other countries. It is likely that Wagner will retain control over operations that are self-sustaining, while activities more directly dependent on Moscow may be brought under its direct control.

**Confusion in the Central African Republic (CAR)**

The CAR is one of three former French colonies that have strengthened security ties with Russia, particularly due to disagreements with France and international forces. Wagner forces have been instrumental in assisting the CAR government in combating a rebel insurgency since 2018. However, Wagner has faced allegations of involvement in massacres against Muslims. In return for their support, Wagner-linked companies have received concessions for gold and timber and have also ventured into the beer-making industry. In recent days, approximately 600 Wagner contractors have left the CAR after refusing to switch to Russian Defense Ministry contracts. Nevertheless, CAR remains confident in Russia’s ongoing support.

**Challenges in Replacing Prigozhin and Wagner Group**

While Prigozhin’s access to Putin was his main asset for African leaders, it has become less significant. However, his personal connections and the loyalty of his men make him challenging to replace. The mutiny, triggered by a dispute over Russia’s war in Ukraine, occurred while Wagner was expanding its presence in Africa. Talks were held with military rulers in Burkina Faso, and a small group was sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide training and assistance to forces fighting rebels. The US has been closely monitoring Wagner’s influence in Africa and has utilized the recent turmoil to pressure African leaders to expel the mercenaries.

**Uncertainty Surrounding Wagner Group’s Future in Sudan**

The future of Wagner’s operations in Sudan remains uncertain. Although Prigozhin and Wagner have been aiding rebels in their fight against the Sudanese army, Russia maintains close ties with the military leadership in Khartoum. The US has accused Wagner of supplying surface-to-air missiles to Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces. Furthermore, Sudan is crucial for Wagner’s logistical corridor, connecting its operations from Syria to Libya and deeper into Africa. Sudan is also significant for Russia, as it seeks to establish its first naval base in Africa on the Red Sea coast, allowing Moscow access to strategic areas currently policed by the US and its allies.


Russia’s decision to allow Wagner Group to continue its operations in Africa, particularly in the CAR, highlights the country’s efforts to preserve its influence on the resource-rich continent. As the US tries to use the recent mutiny to remove Wagner from Africa, Russia is taking swift actions to protect its interests. The controversy surrounding Wagner’s activities in the CAR and Sudan, as well as the logistical corridor connecting its operations, remain a significant challenge for both Russia and the US.

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