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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs the supervisory board meeting of the presidential forum "Russia - Land of Opportunity" at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia April 20, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

International

Russia continues to expand Wagner in libya and beyond to enhance its influence

MOSCOW: Amid the global focus on the unfolding tragedy in Gaza, President Vladimir Putin of Russia continues to extend his country’s influence in Africa.

Since at least 2018, Russia, through the private military contractor (PMC) Wagner, has been increasingly active in Libya.

Initially reported to be training troops under the command of Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army, forces aligned with the eastern parliament, Wagner has steadily expanded its presence, securing financial, military, and political leverage across Libya and beyond.

Despite facing rebellion last year, Wagner, closely associated with the Kremlin, remains operational, with its interests now divided among Russia’s intelligence services following the expected downfall of its founder, Prigozhin.

Similar to other PMCs like the United States’ Constellis (formerly Blackwater), Wagner provides a means for governments to engage in foreign conflicts indirectly, allowing for power projection with plausible deniability.

This detachment from conventional state warfare enables PMCs to undertake activities such as terror campaigns and disinformation efforts beyond the scope of traditional military operations.

The oversight of Wagner’s operations abroad now falls under Russia’s military intelligence (GRU), led by General Andrei Averyanov.

Intermediate PMCs like Convoy, established in Russian-occupied Crimea in 2022, and Redut, initially active in Ukraine to protect Russian interests, serve to maintain legal distance, with Wagner’s operations in Ukraine now renamed as the Volunteer Corps and other endeavors termed the Expeditionary Corps.

Despite scaling back initial plans, Wagner’s ambition remains evident, with ongoing efforts to assemble a sizable force of contractors across Africa, indicative of General Averyanov’s intentions, as observed through past command responsibilities over Unit 29155, a wing of Russian military intelligence known for foreign assassinations and destabilization efforts in Europe.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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