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Russia recruits Ukrainians in occupied territories to fight in Africa, Ukraine says

Russia’s Wagner private military company has started a large-scale recruitment of Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories. The goal is to provide recruits for Russian influence operations in Africa.
A man holds a flag bearing the logo of Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner in Niger. Photo via Eastnews.ua
Russia recruits Ukrainians in occupied territories to fight in Africa, Ukraine says

The Ukrainian National Resistance Center reports that Russia’s Wagner private military company (Wagner PMC) has started a large-scale recruitment of Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine (TOT).

These recruits, aged 22 to 50, are reportedly offered a salary of 240,000 rubles (approximately $2592) if they sign a six-month contract. During this period, they are required to fight on Wagner’s orders and perform mining operations in Africa.

The National Resistance Center notes that Russia violates international humanitarian law with its recruitment on the TOT.

”Russia is known for its constant wars in many countries around the world and for violating international humanitarian law, which does not allow the recruitment of local people into militant groups,” the center writes.

Russian influence operations in Africa

In the last few years, Russia has increased its operations in various African countries. The BBC notes that Russia is offering governments in Africa a ”regime survival package” in exchange for access to strategically important natural resources.

In addition, Russia is working to change mining laws in West Africa, with the ambition of dislodging Western companies from an area of strategic importance. This is part of the process of the Russian government taking over the businesses of the Wagner mercenary group, broken up after a failed coup in June 2023.

In every country in which it operates, Wagner was reported to have secured valuable natural resources using these to not only cover costs but also extract significant revenue. Russia has extracted $2.5 billion worth of gold from Africa in the past two years, which is likely to have helped fund its war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian covert operations abroad

It is for this reason that Ukraine has recently opened up a new, covert front abroad, with special forces operating wherever Russian influence operations are ongoing. One Ukrainian intelligence officer noted the reasoning behind this decision:

“Ukrainian intelligence has to be present wherever there is a need to destroy the enemy, which is waging a full-scale war against Ukraine. We are present wherever it is possible to weaken the interests of Russia,” the intelligence officer said.

Ukrainian intelligence services have been playing an active part in non-conventional warfare, hitting Russia where it hurts the most. Africa is seen by Kyiv as one of those pain points.

The Wagner Group

The Wagner Group was founded by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, and is currently a private military force controlled by the Kremlin. In recent years, it has become one of Russia’s most influential foreign policy tools. It has played a significant role on the battlefields of Syria and Ukraine and, recently, has worked to expand its footprint in Africa. The group has operated in several African countries since 2017.

Rather than a single entity, Wagner is a complex network of businesses and mercenary groups whose operations have been closely tied to the Russian military and intelligence community. Wagner is most active in the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali, and Sudan, all of which have a tenuous relationship with the West, partly due to colonial legacies.

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