The boss of the Russian paramilitary group, Evguéni Prigojine, died in a plane crash. Does Wagner still have a future on the African continent?
The apparent cordial understanding between Yevgeny Prigojine and the Kremlin was only a decoy. Whilehe had staged himself, for a video, in Africa, the boss of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner claimed to want to “make Russia even bigger on all continents and in Africa”. But already, Vladimir Putin seemed to be preparing his revenge after Wagner's mutiny. In public, already, at the time of the Russia-Africa summit, the two men were in disagreement on Niger: the Kremlin had called for a "constructive and peaceful dialogue" after the putsch, while Prigojine spoke for his part of "accession to independence" from a too pro-French Niger.
Eventually, the Russian president managed to get rid of Prigozhin. Wagner's boss died in a plane crash yesterday. The announcement, made by the Russian authorities, of the timing and circumstances of the "accident" leaves little room for doubt. But now, one wonders what will be the future of the paramilitary group in Africa.
The end of relations between African presidents and Wagner?
On the one hand, Prigozhin himself had very personal relations with certain heads of state. But since the Wagner mutiny in Russia, some African presidencies had dissociated themselves from Prigojine, claiming to have contracted with Russia and not with a simple private military company (PMC). However, the former "cook" of Putin had assured that he wanted to refocus his activities on Africa.
Without Prigojine, can Wagner nurture the same ambitions? It is necessary, first of all, to know which executives are still alive. It is known that Dmitry Utkin, Prigozhin's right-hand man, was on the plane that crashed. What about Petry Bychkov, the head of Wagner's Africa office? We will know when the list of the ten passengers who died in the crash is published.
But whatever happens, the Kremlin will try to destroy the influence of Wagner, or rather what remains of it. Putin has already started by dismissing, last Wednesday, General Sergei Surovikin, who was considered Wagner's military leader.
A few thousand men could try to take up the torch from Prigojine, who had promised to “make the African continent even freer”. But in what context? It was Yevgeny Prigojine himself who maintained personal relations with the heads of state. And, as we know, mercenaries are more attracted to natural resources than to any ideology. For its part, the Kremlin certainly intends to try to put an end to Wagner or, at least, to place the men of the group under the supervision of the Russian Ministry of Defence.