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Russia actively expands its influence in African countries

Russia actively expands its influence in African countries Russia successfully consolidates some former Wagner Group structures in Africa (photo: Getty Images)

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation continues to exert efforts to expand Russian influence and absorb former operations of the Wagner group in Africa. Additionally, Russia plans to establish a military base in the Central African Republic, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

On January 26, the African Corps, under the control of the Russian Ministry of Defense, announced that a delegation from the Russian defense department had arrived in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou.

A prominent pro-Kremlin military blogger claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense delegation would discuss the rights and powers of the Russian military contingent in Burkina Faso and the country's future cooperation with Russia.

The blogger asserted that Burkina Faso is likely to become the main coordination center among members of the Sahel Alliance, which includes Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. The formalization of Russian military presence in the Sahel suggests that these relations are likely to last for years.

The military blogger also claimed that Russian media are operating in Burkina Faso to compete with French media and create a loyal information space.

Military base of the Russian Federation in the Central African Republic

Alexander Ivanov, the Director of the Russian Officers' Union of International Security (OUIS), informed Russian media about the sufficiency and effectiveness of several hundred Russian military personnel in the Central African Republic (CAR). According to him, such a Russian military contingent will strengthen Russia's position in the CAR region and demonstrate that cooperation between states has a strategic long-term nature. At the same time, Ivanov dismissed as an obvious exaggeration the statement by an advisor to the CAR president that the Russian military base in the country could accommodate 10,000 servicemen.

Russian Ambassador to the CAR Alexander Bikanov stated that the establishment of a Russian military base would protect the country's national sovereignty. He mentioned that the defense ministries of Russia and the CAR are discussing the location of the base, the arrival time of the Russian military contingent and the number of Russian personnel have not been determined.

"The US Treasury Department sanctioned OUIS and Ivanov on January 26, 2023, for acting as a Wagner Group front company operating in CAR, and Ivanov’s statements to Russian state media about future Russian MoD forces in CAR suggest that the Russian MoD has been successful in co-opting some former Wagner Group structures in CAR," according to an ISW report.

Activity of Russian mercenaries in Africa

The African Corps was established in November 2023 and is an initiative of the Russian Ministry of Defense to enhance Russian military presence in the Middle East and Africa. The unit is specifically tasked with addressing large and complex challenges related to countering Western neo-colonial influence to undermine its resource base in African countries.

In September, the Kremlin shifted the majority of Wagner Group mercenaries from Belarus to Niger, Libya, Sudan, Mali, the CAR, and Mozambique. In all these countries, Moscow has colonial and geopolitical interests, supporting their military juntas and insurgents.

In early December, the Institute for the Study of War reported that Russia was attempting to interfere in the situation in unstable African countries, using the activities of Wagner Group militants in the Central African Republic.

At the end of December, the Russian Ministry of Defense-controlled African Corps unit announced a recruitment campaign for former and current Wagner Group members, as well as individuals with combat experience from the war in Ukraine.