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May 2, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11305

Russian Ministry Of Defense Forms 'African Corps' Composed Of Wagner PMC Operatives

May 2, 2024
Russia, Africa, North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 11305

As tensions rise between Russia and the West, the Kremlin strives to increase its influence with the countries of the "Global South." Moscow enjoys stable diplomatic ties with some countries in Africa (some relations forged during the era of the former Soviet Union). Russia also seeks to control valuable assets on the continent: former Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) servicemen. After the failed coup launched by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian Ministry of Defense sought to mobilize his Wagner PMC forces. This led to formation of the "African Corps." Prigozhin died in an airplane crash on August 23, 2023.

The African Corps' Arrival In Africa

On April 17, 2024, the "Rosich" Telegram channel posted[1] several photos and video clips showing a shipment of vehicles and weapons of the Russian Armed Forces's "African Corps." The equipment was delivered by the ships Ivan Gren and Alexander Otrakovsky to the port of Tobruk, Libya. One reporter stated: "Russia Is Returning to Africa."[2]

The Russian Ministry of Defense formed the African Corps to replace the Wagner PMC structures operating on the African continent. The scope of operations, according to media reports,[3] encompassed Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, and Niger. The new corps reports directly to the Defense Ministry and is supervised by Deputy Defense Minister Colonel-General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Earlier, in the winter of 2023, Yevkurov toured around Africa, visiting Libya, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.[4] During these visits, several agreements on military technical cooperation were signed.


Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov (left) and vice-president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, Salifou Modi (right) after the signing of an agreement on military cooperation between Russia and the Republic of the Niger. (Source: Arabian Africa, t.me/arabicafrica).

Former Wagner PMC servicemen comprise the backbone of the African Corps personnel. As the corps' Telegram channel notedin one of its posts,[5] at the end of 2023, approximately half of the personnel of the unit were ex-Wagnerites. The post acknowledged the "Wagner PMC and their combat experience," noting that former Wagner servicemen hold command positions in the corps, and that "former Wagner fighters have advantages and priority" during the recruitment process. According to Grigory Lukyanov, a researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS (Russian Academy of Sciences) the corps will become "a unique force, capable of army operations."[6]


A screenshot of a post[7] by Rusich shows the equipment of Russian African Corps in Libya: ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft twin-barreled autocannon, multiple launch rocket system "Grad," and armored personnel carrier BTR-82A, as well as Russian-made "GAZ" and "KAMAZ" trucks.

In addition to the corps itself, structures created by other law enforcement agencies (such as Rosgvardia[8]), and private security companies associated with Russian corporations, will operate in Africa. These agencies include, for instance, Russian PMCs "Potok," "Fakel," "Plamya," reportedly associated with the Russian corporation Gazprom.[9] As of this writing, there is no information on which PMCs will take part in the Africa Corps campaign.

However, in addition to military and technical cooperation, the PMCs will probably engage in protection of economic assets, such as mines or other natural resources.

The servicemen of the African Corps are already present on the African continent. There are about 100 servicemen in Uganda and Burkina Faso.[10] A Russian state media outlet, "RIA Novosti," published[11] a video of a "Il-76" airplane landing at an airport in the city of Niamey, the capital of Niger. RIA Novosti also reported that the African Corps would engage in strengthening relations with the country's government, as well as in the training of the Nigerien Army. A media report stated that the 100 African Corps servicemen who landed in Uganda would ensure the "safety of the country's leader, Ibrahimu Traoré, and the Burkinabe people, from terrorist attacks."[12]

Recruitment Campaign

The formation of the Corps was preceded by a wide recruitment campaign, conducted mostly through social networks: primarily via VKontakte[13] and various Telegram channels associated with the army or PMC's. The recruitment campaign continues, putting greater focus on UAV and EW specialists. For instance, on June 23, 2023, the African Corps Telegram channel posted a recruitment ad.[14] The post sought to recruit a wide variety of military professionals: artillerists, UAV operators, and electronic warfare (EW) specialists, assault troops, servicemen with combat experience in tanks, and operators of the Russian-made "P-18" radar stations. The ad highlighted a special need for air defense recruits (specifically, those with experience as "Pantsir-S1" operators).


A post on the "African Corps" Telegram channel.[15] The post contains a video depicting military training in the desert, with soldiers operating various military vehicles and storming buildings.

The ads recruiting for the African Corps promise high salaries, service under the leadership of competent commanders, payments in foreign currency (while stationed abroad), the same benefits as those of serving in the Russian Armed Forces, as well as preferential military mortgages.


This screenshot of the African Corps post[16] shows various contact options for potential African Corps recruits, including a call-center in Moscow, a selection point in Krasnodar Krai, and special phone numbers for UAV and EW specialists. The post ends with a slogan: "Be with us on any continent, anywhere in the world! Our profession is war!"

The posts in the African Corps Telegram channel cover, in addition to the political situation on the continent - logistics and transport, information on ethnic groups of various regions, and combat operations.[17] Additionally, the channel often posts ideological items, asserting that Moscow's presence in Africa is anti-colonial in nature. For instance, one such post, by an associated channel called African Initiative RuTube,[18] features a hostess, Amarula Obiligbo, who blames the West for colonial crimes in Africa, the killing of many people, and the robbery of the continent's resources and treasure. The hostess accuses the West of duplicity and of a continual neo-colonial practice. In the end, she wonders if, perhaps, Russian President Vladimir Putin can help African people to find justice.

 

[1] T.me/rosich_ru/60015.

[2] Quoted by "RIA Novosti" reporter, highlighting the arrival of the African Corps to Niger. (T.me/rosich_ru/59774)

[3] Vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2023/12/22/1012398-chto-izvestno-ob-afrikanskom-korpuse-rossii

[4] Iz.ru/1562760/2023-08-22/evkurov-pribyl-v-liviiu-v-ramkakh-pervogo-ofitcialnogo-vizita-voennoi-delegatcii-rf; Vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2023/12/05/1009330-rossiya-ukreplyaet-voennie-svyazi-s-afrikoi.

[5] T.me/KorpusAfrica/13.

[6] T.me/KorpusAfrica/13.

[7] T.me/KorpusAfrica/13.

[8] The National Guard of the Russian Federation (Rosgvardia) is a "militarized organization" force, headed by Army general Victor Zolotov.

[9] Currenttime.tv/a/russian-private-military-companies/32422559.html.

[10] T.me/KorpusAfrica/210?single.

[11] T.me/rosich_ru/59774.

[12] T.me/KorpusAfrica/210?single.

[13] E.g., Vk.com/@-223953732-informaciya-dlya-kandidatov.

[14] T.me/KorpusAfrica/653.

[15] T.me/KorpusAfrica/653..

[16] T.me/KorpusAfrica/653.

[17] See for instance: T.me/KorpusAfrica/596, T.me/KorpusAfrica/599, T.me/KorpusAfrica/587.

[18] T.me/KorpusAfrica/592; Rutube.ru/video/686eb0a8f07bf6a50b8927f73ce50da2/?r=a.

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