An exceptional piece of work by CNN on ‘Putin’s Private Army


This is simply an exceptional piece of work by CNN’s Tim Listor, Sebastian Shukia, and Clarissa Ward which I wanted to share … there is a link to the full piece at the end for accompanying documents. I think, between these kinds of efforts, and what is occurring as I type between China and Hong Kong …

The World Is About To Change!

I’m Just Sayin’ … .


Central African Republic (CNN)  There’s nothing secret about Russia’s presencein the Central African Republic. The streets are plastered with propaganda posters proclaiming “Russia: hand in hand with your army!” A local radio station churns out Russian ballads and language lessons. New recruits to the army are being trained in Russian, using Russian weapons.

But the Russian campaign in this war-torn country is anything but straightforward, drawing on a mix of guns-for-hire and clever PR to increase Moscow’s influence, outmaneuver its rivals and re-assert itself as a major player in the region.


Posters across Bangui are reminiscent of old Soviet propaganda. The posters read: “Central African Republic is hand in hand with Russia” and “talk a little, work a lot.” – Credit: Sebastian Shukla/CNN

A months-long CNN investigation has established that this ambitious drive into the heart of Africa is being sponsored by Yevgeny Prigozhin — an oligarch so close to the Kremlin that he is known as President Vladimir Putin’s “chef.” He was sanctioned by the US for funding the Internet Research Agency that meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Prigozhin’s conglomerate includes a company called Lobaye Invest that funds the radio station in the Central African Republic (CAR). It also finances the training of army recruits in the CAR by some 250 Russian mercenaries, with more on the way. The dividend for Lobaye Invest: generous concessions to explore for diamonds and gold in a country rich in mineral wealth.

Prigozhin is no stranger to the world of mercenaries, or private military contractors (PMCs) as they are known in Russia. He’s thought to be the driving force behind Wagner, a secretive contractor whose soldiers of fortune played a role in Syria and eastern Ukraine. One of his veteran accomplices heads the company.

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Russian mercenaries creep into Africa 6:08

Our road to the CAR starts with a witness thousands of miles away in a drab Soviet-era apartment.

A Russian mercenary sits in the gloom, chain-smoking and preparing to talk for the first time about his life in a secret army that officially doesn’t exist.

He has fought in Chechnya against separatist rebels and in Syria to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

He asked for his identity to be concealed, afraid of reprisals for speaking about the shadowy force that is helping to extend Russian power and influence in unstable areas of the world.

He was paid, he says, by Wagner.


Members of a Wagner mercenary unit, whose faces have been blurred, operating in the Syrian desert. – Credit: Obtained by CNN

“It’s just a fighting unit that will do anything that Putin says,” he adds.

It is a charge the Kremlin denies. In June, Putin said of military contractors in Syria: “These people risk their lives and by and large this is also a contribution in fighting terrorism … but this is not the Russian state, not the Russian army.”

But analysts say it’s inconceivable that Wagner would exist without Putin’s approval. Indeed, its training camp in Molkino in southern Russia is attached to a Russian special forces base, guarded by regular soldiers who do not welcome visitors.

Prigozhin has previously denied being connected to Wagner. Neither he nor anyone from his companies would talk to CNN, but after mixed fortunes in Ukraine and Syria the oligarch appears to have turned his attention to Africa, with various subsidiaries at work in Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic.


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Meet ‘Oleg’, the chain-smoking former Wagner mercenary 4:19

In the CAR, the mercenaries’ headquarters are on the grounds of a now dilapidated former presidential palace at Berengo, a two-hour drive from the capital Bangui.

In 2017, the UN Security Council approved a Russian training mission, but other governments did not expect Prigozhin’s men to fill the void. Not surprisingly, the trainers covered their faces and refused to speak to us.

The one man who is interviewed is Valery Zakharov, a cheerful and florid former military intelligence officer who spent time in Chechnya in the 1990s and is now in charge of the training.

He views his role simply, telling CNN: “Russia is returning to Africa.”

“We were present in many countries during the time of the Soviet Union, and Russia is coming back to the same position. We still have connections and we are trying to re-establish them,” he said.

MoscowUkraineSyriaLibyaSudanCentral African Republic

Russia’s expanding influence across three continents

MercenariesRussian mercenaries first appeared in Ukraine in 2014. Since then they have spread across three continents, often targeting unstable countries. Private Military Companies are officially illegal in Russia.

An exact figure on how many fighters there are is hard to estimate. However, CNN has independently confirmed at least several hundred.

Kremlin-connected oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to be behind the most notorious group — Wagner.

Natural resourcesMany of the countries where Russian mercenaries are active have large stores of natural resources.

In Sudan and the CAR, Prigozhin-linked companies have been given exploration rights to gold and diamond mines. In Syria, Wagner mercenaries secured oil fields in exchange for a percentage of profit.

National influenceRussia has been trying to boost its influence in a number of African states, penning bilateral agreements with multiple countries, some of which are shown on this map.

Zakharov describes the instructors as “reservists.” But neither he nor anyone else could explain who sent them and who pays them. And his own role in the country is somewhat unclear.

Zakharov told CNN he works as a security adviser for the Central African Republic’s President Faustin-Archange Touadéra.

“He pays me a salary, therefore, I work for him,” Zakharov said.

He added that he had never met Prigozhin and insisted Wagner did not operate in the CAR.

“Let’s be clear again what we mean by Wagner — if we mean the composer?” he joked. “Legally it does not exist and therefore we are going to consider that it does not exist. As regards the Central African Republic at the current time, there is no PMC (Private Military Contractor) Wagner.”

Prigozhin’s complex network of companies

Yevgeny V.


Ties to Putin’s

inner circle


Vladimir V. Putin



Listed as 50%

owned by Prigozhin

Shares email / domain name with Concord


Parent company

for a group of



in Russia


Part of /

subsidiary of

Evgeny Khodotov has

run both companies

Accused by US

of backing Internet

Research Agency (IRA)

Owned or controlled

by Prigozhin











Dmitry V. Utkin is head of Wagner. A man of the same name was listed as Director General of Concord


Part of /

subsidiary of


Accused by US of

influencing the 2016

Presidential Election

Under US

treasury sanctions






Notorious group

of mercenaries

But CNN has obtained documents showing Zakharov has been paid by a Prigozhin company, M-Finans, at least once, in July 2018.

He lives at the headquarters of Lobaye Invest, in a walled compound outside the capital, Bangui. A solitary Russian flag flutters nearby; an ammunition box with Cyrillic script sits atop the wall.

Zakharov’s employer, President Touadera, told CNN there was no link between the support Russia provided in military training and “other sectors.”

But CNN obtained documents showing that Lobaye Invest had won exploration rights at seven sites to look for diamonds and gold.

This is simply an exceptional piece of work by CNN’s Tim Listor, Sebastian Shukia, and Clarissa Ward which I wanted to share … there is a link to the full piece at the end for accompanying documents. I think, between these kinds of efforts, and what is occurring as I type between China and Hong Kong

The World Is About To Change!

I’m Just Sayin’ … .

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