Russian Authorities Intend to Take Prigozhins “Empire” in Africa and the Middle East under Control

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Russian authorities, following the events of June 23-24 that involved the Wagner mercenary group and its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, intend to take the entrepreneur’s “global empire” under control. In particular, according to The Wall Street Journal, they want to control the Wagner units operating in Africa and the Middle East. The WSJ, citing diplomats and intelligence officers, says that after the events in south Russia there was “a surge of Moscow diplomatic activity”. Russian representatives went to Africa and the Middle East to assure partners that the Wagner would continue to perform its functions without interruption, but under the control of the new leadership. According to the WSJ, a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister visited Damascus to personally inform Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that “the Wagner units will no longer operate there independently”. On June 27, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website published a report on the visit to Syria of the Deputy Head of the Ministry, Sergey Vershinin. His trip to Damascus took place on June 26-27. During the visit, Vershinin met with Bashar al-Assad. According to the report, the sides discussed topical issues of the international and regional agenda. It is not specified whether issues related to the Wagner were discussed during the talks. The WSJ also says that high-ranking officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry had a phone call with the President of the Central African Republic (CAR) Faustin-Archange Touadera, whose bodyguards, the newspaper notes, included members of the Wagner. Diplomats assured the Head of the CAR that recent events in Russia would not stop the Africa campaign expansion. According to the WSJ, about 6 thousand members of the Wagner operate outside Russia. They are engaged in the protection of mines and politicians in the CAR, guarding oil wells and the territories under control of the Syrian government. On June 23, Yevgeny Prigozhin announced that his Wagner fighters would march towards Moscow. On the evening of June 24, the press service of the Belarusian President reported that Alexander Lukashenko had held talks with Prigozhin. After the talks, the Wagner fighters changed their direction and left for the field camps, while the company founder went to Belarus. After these events, Fidèle Gouandjika, an adviser of the CAR President, said that if the Wagner left the country, the CAR authorities were ready to accept any other security group from Russia. He also noted that there had been “no visible change” in the republic amid the events involving the Wagner, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called an armed mutiny.