Wagner mercenaries operate in a host of African states with difficult and hostile security arrangements, including Mali, Mozambique, the Central African Republic and Libya. Besides its public deployments elsewhere in Africa, there is a widespread suspicion that Wagner mercenaries are operating, or will likely begin operations, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
KJ-1: It is highly likely that entities linked to Wagner will conduct information warfare specifically targeting the DRC in the next 12 months.
- Wagner PMC’s patron Yevgeniy Prigozhin funds the Internet Research Agency. The IRA is a notorious ‘troll farm’ used to advance the Kremlin’s interests abroad. Meta removed accounts linked to Prigozhin which incentivised journalists in the DRC to write pro-Kremlin content [source].
- The Association For Free Research And International Cooperation (AFRIC) provides these information campaigns along with the International Anti-crisis Center (IAC). AFRIC and IAC are supported financially by Petr Byschkov, Yulia Afanasyeva and Taras Pribyshin [source].
- Byschkov himself, along with Afanasyeva, leads the Africa Back Office. ABO funds AFRIC’s election monitoring scheme in the DRC [source].
- The Russian government set the ‘balance of power’ in favor of President Felix Tshisekedi after fraud allegations from former President Kabila’s ruling party threatened to damage his nascent presidency. Kabila’s ruling party thus kept its majority in the legislature [source].
- Two Facebook accounts, “Congo Actu” and “Patriotisme Congolais”, appeared online nearly simultaneously in 2019. Both pages offered a strong anti-Kabila message, and friendly messaging towards Russia [source].
- Other, less consistent pages with similar messaging are visible in the DRC information sphere, as well as WhatsApp and Telegram groups dedicated to Russian disinformation [source].
- The Russian Embassy in the Congo posted a message to its telegram page seeming to suggest that there is no evidence for Wagner’s involvement in central Africa [source].
KJ-2: It is likely that Wagner will expand its footprint in the DRC in the next 12 months.
- Leaked documents show that Wagner-linked companies established strong ties with military, police, political and humanitarian organizations in the DRC [source].
- Mercenaries are a common feature in the DRC security architecture. For example, opposition politician Moise Katumbi is under investigation by his former allies in the government for hiring American security contractors as bodyguards [source].
- Wagner is believed to have a limited presence in the DRC in exchange for exclusive rights for weapons procurement and mineral concessions. It is not clear how many operators Wagner deployed to the DRC [source].
- M23 rebels claim that Wagner is present in North Kivu. An unconfirmed photo of a dead Wagner fighter emerged from the DRC this month [source].
- Viktor Tokmakov, known as Wagner’s de facto sales representative, recently moved to Kinshasa. Tokmakov offered to supply the DRC military with newer Russian-made weapons [source], [source].
- The US, UK and France are attempting to further the arms embargo against the DRC, potentially mitigating the ability of Wagner to fully deploy in the DRC [source].
- Wagner mercenaries are present in the port town of Pointe-Noire in the CAR, where a Russian gas pipeline project is currently under construction [source], [source].
- RuzGasEngineering is currently in charge of the Pointe Noire-Brazzaville-Oyo-Ouésso pipeline project [source].
- Russia developed informal arbitration mechanisms in the DRC and contributes to infrastructural development projects [source].
- The DRC government is further auctioning off large portions of the untouched rainforest, oil and glass blocs, worth upwards of $600 billion [source].
KJ-3: It is highly likely that Wagner PMC operators will use Russian Air Force assets and existing civilian infrastructure for deployments in the DRC in the next 12 months.
- Prigozhin uses two front companies, Trans Logistik and Yunidzhet, to buy aircraft parts for the fleet which services Wagner’s transportation needs [source].
- The US successfully petitioned Chad and Niger to block the overflights of Russian aircraft associated with Wagner. Algeria and Guinea have not yet conceded to Washington’s requests [source].
- Wagner used several Tu-154Ms to deploy operators to Sudan, Libya, CAR and elsewhere in the last year. At least one Il-67, one An-148 and two An-124s are also available [source], [source].
- Wagner typically establishes a base of operations around civilian airfields and military installations of the host country [source], [source].
- The 223d and 224th Flight Detachment, which operates out of Chkalovsky military airfield near Moscow, services Wagner logistical needs. These flights operate by the Russian Air Force or by Rossiya [source].
- The aircraft used by Wagner are owned by a state-owned enterprise, which is a full subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Defense. They finance these subsidiary enterprises through M-Finance, a company linked to Prigozhin [source].
- The Rossiya Special Flight Squadron has dozens of aircraft capable of airlifting hundreds of Wagner operators to the DRC [source].
Intelligence Cut-Off date: 2nd of February 2022