The Russian Defense Ministry is continuing to expand its influence in Africa and subsume previous efforts by the Wagner Group, the Institute for the Study of War reported on Jan. 26 in their daily assessment.
A Russian Defense Ministry delegation allegedly arrived in Burkina Faso on Jan. 26 to discuss the rights and operations of the Russian military in the country.
Reports suggest Burkina Faso could become the "main coordination center" between Sahel Alliance members Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. Russian media is also reportedly operating in Burkina Faso to "compete" with the French media and "create a loyal information space." This cooperation could indicate that Russian influence and presence in the Sahel will last for years.
Additionally, the Director of the Russian Officers' Union for International Security (OUIS), Alexander Ivanov, reportedly told Russia's state-controlled media that several hundred Russian military personnel in the Central African Republic (CAR) would be "sufficient and effective."
Ivanov claimed that Russian military presence in CAR would strengthen Russia's position in CAR and a cooperation between the two countries is "of a strategic long-term nature." The Russian Ambassador to CAR, Alexander Bikantov, also told Russian media that the Russian MoD is currently negotiating the placement of a Russian military base in CAR and that this base would protect the CAR's national sovereignty.
The U.S. Treasury previously issued sanctions against the OUIS and Ivanov for acting as a Wagner Group front group operating in CAR. According to ISW, these recent statements could suggest that the Russian Defense Ministry has been successful in co-opting some former Wagner Group structures in the Central African Republic.
Russia's illicit activities and ties to authoritarian regimes in Africa have been under the public eye for years. Russian mercenaries on the continent, including the Wagner Group, whose operations help to fill Moscow's coffers, have been repeatedly accused of human rights abuses against local populations.