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Prigozhin secretly woos African leaders at St. Petersburg Forum – ISW

At the Russia-Africa Economic Forum, Wagner financier Prigozhin covertly engaged with African leaders in an apparent bid to preserve Wagner’s roles in Africa
Prigozhin Wagner St Petersburg Africa
Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin (right) shakes hand with an unspecified Central African Republic official. Photo circulated by Wagner-affiliated TG channel Gray Zone
Prigozhin secretly woos African leaders at St. Petersburg Forum – ISW

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin engaged with African leaders at the Russia-Africa Economic Forum in St Petersburg on 27 July, a move that analysts from the Institute for Study of War say was likely an effort to position his mercenary group as an alternative to Western partners on the continent.

Citing a Russian insider source, the ISW states that Prigozhin did not attend the forum itself but held private, informal meetings with unknown African government representatives at a hotel near the forum. His presence there suggests Wagner wants to maintain significant involvement in Africa amid its lucrative military and mining contracts, the institute analysts say.

The report also indicates Prigozhin praised the recent Nigerien coup, purportedly offering in an audio recording to send 1,000 Wagner fighters to help restore order. According to the institute, pro-Kremlin bloggers portrayed these comments as positioning Wagner as a potential security partner for post-coup Niger, similar to its role in Mali.

ISW and Critical Threats Project analysts assess that Prigozhin is working through events like the forum to preserve Wagner’s profitable activities in Africa after recent reputation damage to Russia. This includes its withdrawal from a deal ensuring grain exports from Ukraine. 

At the forum itself, the ISW report notes that Putin gave a speech emphasizing Russian investment in Africa and accusing the West of interfering with its grain supplies. His rhetoric represented little change in actual policy toward the continent, ISW analysts said.

The Russia-Africa summit, held over 27-28 July in St.Petersburg, is intended to portray Russia as a great power to African nations. However, this year only 17 African heads of state attended, down from 43 at the last iteration. 

Russian grain handout to Africa can’t replace Ukraine’s disrupted exports – UN chief

During the summit, Putin pledged a handout of grain to six African nations, purporting this will compensate the decreased Ukrainian grain supply from the Black Sea grain deal it has withdrawn from. However, the rising food prices resulting from a clampdown on Ukrainian exports from the disrupted deal, and the anticipated food crisis, have unnerved African leaders.

Africa has long been a zone of Wagner’s interest. The PMC has previously supported the Kremlin’s geopolitical goals in countries such as Libya, Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic. Most recently, reports have emerged that Wagner is moving into Burkina Faso after the country ordered French troops to leave. 

According to Bloomberg, the Russia-Africa Forum was important for African leaders as they are still puzzled over the state of relations between the Kremlin and Wagner after the latter’s failed mutiny and the redeployment to Belarus of both Prigozhin and a part of the Wagner PMC. 

Wagner owner Prigozhin eyes Africa after setbacks in Ukraine – Bloomberg

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