After Prigozhins Death The Battle for Africa: The Post-Prigozhin Era
In recent times, the African continent has been the stage for a shadowy struggle that spans multiple continents. At the heart of this complex power play is the legacy of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a notorious mercenary leader whose alliances with African leaders, particularly those who leaned toward Russia, left a profound impact on the geopolitical landscape. This article delves deep into the unfolding dynamics of this struggle and the post-Prigozhin era, shedding light on the battle for the lucrative paramilitary and propaganda empire that once enriched Mr. Prigozhin while serving Russia’s military and diplomatic ambitions.
Prigozhin: The Flamboyant Mercenary
Leaders from African nations who had formed alliances with Russia became accustomed to dealing with the flamboyant Yevgeny V. Prigozhin. Known for his brazen and crude approach, Prigozhin’s reputation was intertwined with his extensive operations in Africa, often involving the exchange of weapons and propaganda for gold and diamonds. He traveled around the continent in a private jet, projecting an image of opulence and extravagance.
The Changing Face of Russian Delegation
However, a recent visit to three African countries by a Russian delegation, led by Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov, marked a significant shift. Yevkurov presented a stark contrast to Prigozhin’s flamboyance. Clad in a khaki uniform and the traditional “telnyashka,” a horizontally striped undergarment of the Russian military, Yevkurov conveyed conformity and discretion. He emphasized professionalism and diplomacy in his approach, stating at a news conference in Burkina Faso, “We will do our utmost to assist you.” This diplomatic stance aligned with the Kremlin’s message that Russia’s operations in Africa were now under new control after Prigozhin’s untimely demise in a plane crash.
The Struggle for Prigozhin’s Empire
This shift in leadership exposed the ongoing power struggle for control over Prigozhin’s vast empire. Interviews with numerous officials from Washington, Europe, Africa, and Russia, including those who had worked directly for Prigozhin, paint a vivid picture of the tug-of-war among major players in Russia’s power structure. Among the contenders are the SVR and GRU, two Russian spy agencies, both eyeing different aspects of Prigozhin’s operations.
The SVR is anticipated to take over Wagner’s propaganda and online disinformation outlets targeting foreign countries, while the Defense Ministry and GRU may assume control over Wagner’s mercenary operations. The presence of General Andrei V. Averyanov, renowned for leading an elite unit specializing in subversion, sabotage, and assassination abroad, during Yevkurov’s African visit, signals the potential involvement of the military intelligence department in shaping the future of Wagner’s operations.
The African Battleground
Among all the African countries, Libya and the Central African Republic are where Wagner’s operations hold the greatest value for Russia. Wagner’s mercenaries have established trust and wealth by supporting authoritarian regimes, ultimately increasing Russia’s influence on the continent while diminishing the sway of Western powers like France and the United States. Confidential intelligence assessments reveal the intense competition between the SVR and GRU to assume control over key elements of Prigozhin’s empire.
The Faith in Wagner
The struggle to control Prigozhin’s assets is not without challenges. Many individuals within his private military still hold allegiance to him, resisting subordination to Russia’s defense ministry. Some even advocate for a transfer of power to Prigozhin’s son, Pavel Prigozhin, viewing Wagner as more than just a mercenary operation but rather as a kind of faith. For them, the complete dissolution of this structure is inconceivable.
Putin’s Campaign Against Prigozhin
Vladimir V. Putin’s campaign to discredit Prigozhin escalated after the failed mutiny. Putin depicted Prigozhin as a profiteer who had amassed billions from “gold and bling.” Even in death, Prigozhin continues to be a defining figure in Putin’s Russia, symbolizing the secrecy, infighting, and contradictory tactics of the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine.
The Far-Reaching Implications
The scramble for Prigozhin’s empire, built through his multifaceted service to Putin in exchange for government contracts, has far-reaching consequences. His paramilitary group served as Russia’s primary fighting force in Ukraine in its final year, and its dissolution raises questions about Russia’s ability to mount new offensives. His media conglomerate, complete with an online “troll farm,” played a significant role in undermining democratic institutions worldwide.
Wagner’s Continued Presence in Africa
Despite Prigozhin’s death, the demand for Wagner’s services remains in Africa’s vulnerable nations, where regime protection is highly sought after. Countries like Burkina Faso now seek stronger ties with the Kremlin, especially those that were previously cautious of Wagner. Yevkurov’s recent visit to Burkina Faso, where he was welcomed by the country’s young leader, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who seized power in a military coup last year, illustrates this growing interest in bolstering relationships with Russia.
In conclusion, the power vacuum left by Prigozhin’s death triggered a fierce battle for control over his empire. As the SVR, GRU, and other private military companies vie for dominance, Africa remains a critical battleground, where the influence of Wagner’s operations is still keenly felt. The legacy of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin continues to shape Russia’s actions on the international stage, and the struggle for his empire’s assets continues to unfold in the shadows.