Kremlin may ‘take control of Wagner’ across the world in nationalisation plan

Russia could be looking to “assume formal control” over the Wagner Group after years of using the company to secretly bolster its influence across the globe.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank analysing the conflict in Ukraine, claimed the Kremlin may be looking to abandon its hands-off approach in favour of a nationalised service by way of undercutting the influence of the private military company less than a week after they staged a march on Moscow.

Russian officials reportedly spoke to leaders in Syria, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR) over the past few days to inform them that Wagner will “no longer operate as an independent organisation”, but that they will continue working in the affected areas.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin reportedly flew to Damascus to tell Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Wagner personnel will have to report to the Russian military base in Latakia, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Representatives of the ministry also allegedly told CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera, as well as members of the Malian leadership, that Wagner will continue operations in their respective countries.

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Across the African continent, but ostensibly in Mali, CAR and Burkina Faso, Wagner offers its services to help prop up anti-Western governments and juntas in exchange for access to natural resources.

They are known to embark on “cleansing” missions in those countries, which involve the rape and murder of civilians, as well as the destruction of whole villages, to wash out jihadist militias and/or gain access to vital resources.

Both Russia and the countries within which Wagner operate often turn a blind eye to its use of internationally-recognised illicit tactics, a feat which is made easier due to the private and independent nature of the company.

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But Putin was forced to publicise that the Kremlin “fully funds and supplies” the Wagner PMC on June 27 as means of diluting the projected power of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The ISW reported on June 29 that this announcement could also be used to “complete the formal nationalisation” of Wagner, which would almost entirely undermine its ability to speak out against the Kremlin, as it has been doing for months, and prevent any self-funding independent of the state.

They added that they did not believe the nationalisation would “dramatically disrupt its foreign activities”, suggesting the war crimes often perpetuated by the PMC would continue under the explicit authority of the Kremlin.

Earlier this week, when asked about the impact of the mutiny last weekend, a CAR minister suggested Russia had always “subcontracted” Wagner and that the PMC was ultimately replaceable.

Fidele Gouandjika, a minister and special adviser to CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera, said the country had signed “a defence deal with Russia and not Wagner.”

“Moscow has subcontracted to Wagner, and if Russia doesn’t agree, it will send us a new contingent,” he added.

Irrespective of whether Wagner continues its operations on the continent, a prospect that appears likely, Mr Gouandjika’s comments imply that a nationalisation tactic amounts to Russia merely acknowledging responsibility for groups the West widely-suspected they were funding in the first place.

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