A gift of 11 pistols exhibits who was who in Wagner’s command construction in Sudan, because the mercenary group’s mutiny poses questions for Russia’s empire in Africa.
Sudanese basic Abdel Fattah al-Burhan gave the weapons to Wagner boss Yevgheniy Prighozin and 10 of his high males in 2020 at a peak time in relations.
He gave Glock 26s, additionally referred to as “child” Glocks, to Prighozin himself and to his second-in-command on Khartoum, Valeriy Zakharov.
And he despatched personalised Glock 17s to 9 different Wagner commanders together with a letter in Arabic thanking them for his or her “contribution to Sudanese safety”.
The record of weapons, their serial numbers, and Wagner homeowners was recorded in a two-page inside Russian authorities doc from 27 February 2020 marked “secret” and seen by EUobserver.
“None of the boys have been odd fighters, however type of leaders of the Sudan operation,” a Russian supply instructed EUobserver.
Three years in the past marked Wagner and Russia’s heyday in Sudan.
Al-Burhan was in energy, Wagner was coaching his forces and constructing gold mines, whereas Russia was in talks to assemble a naval base on the nation’s Red Sea coast.
Sudan was a part of a wider technique that noticed Wagner and Russia develop into Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, and additional afield.
But fast-forward to immediately and Sudan is again in full-blown civil war, placing Wagner’s mines and Russia’s naval base-plan in danger.
Prighozin’s mutiny in opposition to the Russian military final weekend, in a row over the Ukraine warfare, has additionally put his personal survival, Wagner’s future, and Russia’s Africa strategy unsure.
“I didn’t see any panic. I didn’t see any adjustments within the relations of the related African nations with the Russian federation,” Russian international minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned on Monday (26 June).
But EU international relations chief Josep Borrell was much less positive, talking in Luxembourg the identical day.
“What occurs subsequent? Will they [Wagner] be built-in within the Russian military? We do not know. Some may combine, others not,” Borrell mentioned.
“What is Wagner’s function in Africa going to be going ahead?”, he added. “Russia would discover it arduous to deal with out the assistance of these mercenary items in lots of African nations,” he mentioned.
And the al-Burhan gun record provides clues to what may occur subsequent by shedding light on Wagner’s modus operandi.
The child Glock gift signifies Prighozin had vital private relationships with African leaders that could be arduous to interchange.
The hybrid group of 10 warriors, spin-doctors, and businessmen who acquired pistols additionally signifies that the Russian military alone may discover it arduous to duplicate Wagner’s formulation for African success.
Zooming in on the opposite 10 names, Prighozin’s second-in-command on Khartoum, Zakharov, is beneath EU and US sanctions, which element his previous.
The 53-year outdated is a former Russian intelligence officer who labored in Chechnya and subsequently as a police detective in St Petersburg.
He’s ruthless by status — EU sanctions accuse him of serving to to homicide three Russian journalists in CAR in 2018.
But he additionally understands high-level politics and enterprise, as he was once Wagner’s national-security adviser to the CAR president and created the Lobaye Invest gold-mining agency in Sudan’s southern neighbour.
The 9 Wagner males who acquired the much less fancy Glock 17s have been: Valery Chekalov, Evgeni Fedorov, Aleksandr Glukhov, Andrei Gusev, Pavel Kovalevich, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Nikolai Matusevich, Mikhail Potepkin, and Andrei Tkachenko.
Kuznetsov and Potepkin are additionally beneath a mixture of EU, UK, and US sanctions.
The 45-year outdated Kuznetsov is a former Russian military main who was jailed for kidnapping and theft in 2008 earlier than becoming a member of Wagner and getting a Hero of Russia medal in 2016.
He is a battle-hardened army commander who fought in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine and who additionally helped organise gold-smuggling flights from Sudan to Russia, in response to a CNN investigation.
The 41-year outdated Potepkin was Prighozin’s Africa spin-doctor and enterprise supervisor and had no army expertise.
He used to work at Prighozin’s troll-factory, the Internet Research Agency in St Petersburg, and later managed Wagner’s M-Invest and Meroe Gold mining corporations in Sudan, US sanctions mentioned.
But Potepkin’s essential function in Sudan and in Wagner’s different African operations was to offer political consultancy and media work for Wagner-allied African elites, in addition to orchestrating anti-Western propaganda campaigns, EUobserver’s Russian supply mentioned.
The 33-year outdated Tkachenko is a former Russian inside ministry official who was convicted in a phone-hacking rip-off in opposition to a Russian oligarch in 2020.
His function in Wagner is unclear, however he used to fly backwards and forwards from Russia to Beirut, Doha, Dubai, and Istanbul for brief enterprise journeys along with identified Wagner fighters in recent times, in response to an investigation by unbiased Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
And certainly one of Tkachenko’s fellow travellers was Chekalov, the CEO of Wagner-linked agency Euro Polis, and certainly one of Prighozin’s wallets.
Prighozin valued Chekalov for his enterprise acumen and his potential to generate profits in “excessive situations”, a second Russian supply mentioned.
Euro Polis exported oil and gasoline from Syria in return for Wagner safety for the Syrian regime.
It’s unclear if it was concerned in Sudan. But the identical yr that al-Burhan gave Chekalov his Glock, Euro Polis’ earnings shot up from €1m (in 2019) to €65m in 2020, in response to Russia’s corporate registry, in what could have been because of an injection of Sudanese gold along with Syrian oil.
EUobserver couldn’t conclusively ID the remaining 4 males.
One Evgeni Fedorov is an MP within the ruling United Russia occasion who usually speaks of Wagner in public, however he could not be reached for questions.
There’s additionally an Andrei Gusev who was once in a Moscow-based organised-crime gang and who was jailed in 2005 as an confederate within the homicide of former Russian magnificence queen Svetlana Kotova.
But it is uncertain if any of those males are the identical ones on the gun record.
The secretive nature of Wagner means it is also unknown the place the 11 males are actually.
Prighozin himself is reportedly holed up in exile on the Green City resort in Minsk making an attempt to regroup his Wagner loyalists at a camp in Belarus.
Kuznetsov was final seen on 20 May in Bakhmut, Ukraine, hoisting Wagner and Russian flags on the battlefield.
Potepkin is alleged to have left Wagner in 2021.
Wagner’s different high males
Details of Wagner’s Russian command construction are additionally shrouded in secrecy.
But Prighozin’s deputy head is Mikhail Mizintsev, a former Russian basic who fought in Ukraine and who was doubtless liable for Wagner’s communication and provide channels with the Russian army.
Another well-known deputy is Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian soldier in Syria who joined the mercenary group in 2013 and whose army call-sign was “Wagner”, which gave the mercenaries their identify.
He reportedly travelled with Prighozin to Russian jails in 2022 to recruit fighters and helped to mediate in an argument between Prighozin and Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shortly earlier than Wagner’s failed putsch.
Andrei Troshev, a former Russian soldier who fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Syria, has additionally been with Wagner since 2013, holding titles equivalent to government director and head of safety.
He’s concerned in senior-level recruitment and reportedly tried to persuade Igor Strelkin (a Russian intelligence officer and hero of Russia’s first Ukraine invasion in 2014) to hitch Prighozin’s troupe.
Andrei Bogatov, a former Russian paratrooper in Afghanistan, led a Wagner assault and reconnaissance firm in Syria.
And Utkin, Troshev, and Bogatov have been all photographed with Putin at a Kremlin reception in 2016 in an indication of their excessive rank.
A ultimate Wagner commander to be careful for as post-mutiny occasions unfold is Roman Gavrilov, the previous head of inside safety at Rosgvardia, Russia’s National Guard service.
Rosgvardia experiences on to Putin and halted Prighozin’s march to Moscow final weekend — a improvement during which Gavrilov could have performed a central function.
Meanwhile, coming again to Africa, Putin continues to be planning to host some 50 African leaders at a showcase summit in St Petersburg on 27 July in an indication of his ongoing geopolitical ambition.
Each chief has been invited with as much as 5 company and promised a “full bundle” of luxurious hospitality, in response to a Western intelligence supply.
The profiles of the Wagner commanders awarded Glocks in Sudan present that the mercenaries did much more for Prighozin and Putin in Africa than simply fight operations.
Wagner’s grey-zone specialists additionally orchestrated political campaigns and complicated enterprise schemes.
But if Putin nonetheless has designs on Africa, then even earlier than the Wagner meltdown, issues weren’t going in addition to it might sound.
Russia’s Sudan naval-base plan has been indefinitely postponed because of lack of belief between Sudanese and Russian leaders.
“Russia has mainly given up on the concept for now. However, that is one thing they’d by no means admit publicly,” the Western supply mentioned.
Wagner’s artisanal gold mines in Sudan lack fashionable gear and are more and more struggling to search out high quality ore, the supply added.
And Russian racism towards African troopers and labourers dangers poisoning relations as time goes on.
Russian army helicopters and different materiel delivered to Mali have been outdated and defective, however Russian trainers mentioned the issues have been as a result of Malian troopers’ “monkey fingers” could not function them correctly, the Western supply mentioned
“The Russians have tried to resolve points with the native workforce by yelling at Sudanese, belittling them, threatening to not pay their wages,” the supply added.
“When chatting with native supervisors, the Russians usually recommend ‘stealing or killing if essential’ to satisfy the anticipated targets,” the supply mentioned.