What Happened: The Guardian has reportedly obtained documents revealing Russian influence efforts in Africa, the British paper reported June 11. The documents allegedly come from the Dossier Center, an investigative reporting group funded by dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky. They describe Russia's efforts to undermine U.S., British and French positions across the continent, bolster ties with existing African leaders, create new pro-Moscow leaders, and turn the continent into a strategic hub, among other things. In addition, the documents supposedly rate Moscow's influence in key countries, with the Central African Republic, Sudan and Madagascar ranking highest, followed by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Libya at the second-highest tier.
Why It Matters: The documents suggest a far more concerted and organized campaign centered around Yevgeny Prigozhin to increase Russian influence in Africa than previously recognized. If correct, the documents underscore that Moscow sees opportunities for economic and political gain by aggressively entering African countries via military deals, its mercenary company Wagner group, and other agents of influence. Also notable are reports of places where Russia plans to scale up its influence operations, including Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Mali, and Russia's Pan-African approach to building support. Prigozhin's role as apparent owner of the Kremlin's Africa portfolio ranks him higher than his previously assumed logistical role in managing Wagner and several mining operations in Africa.
Background: The veracity of these documents has yet to be established. Still, previous Khodorkovsky leaks appear reliable, and the information the new documents contain seems consistent with observed events.
Russia Goes on a Global Search for Opportunity (March 5, 2019)
Russia Chases Cold War Spectre Across Africa (June 5, 2018)
The Devious Art of Securing Influence in Africa (Aug. 21, 2016)