Evgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, has business interests in Africa. Thousands of Russian mercenaries are located in the countries of the Sahel region, which not only guarantee Prigozhin stable access to mineral deposits but also serve as an instrument of the political influence of the Kremlin, one of whose playbooks is the artificial instigation of conflicts that turn into wars.
In April, fighting erupted in Sudan between the country's military and political elite over absolute access to power. Wagner mercenaries were spotted surrounding Lieutenant General Muhammad Hamdan Daglo, a close associate of Prigozhin. As a result of the stand-off, millions of Sudanese have been deprived of humanitarian aid, food, and even access to drinking water. In the coming months, Europe could be flooded with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Sudan: with the risk of provoking socio-political upheaval in the EU and causing economic hardship.
Putin considers the encouragement of conflicts to be an important component of his strategy to provoke global chaos, to which Europe can fall victim. The presence of Russian mercenaries in Africa is a factor in creating hotbeds of conflict in the region; the mercenaries with experience in combat operations seem to be coping very well with this task. The Wagner Group is present in Mali, Sudan, and the Central African Republic, poor countries that depend on humanitarian aid from international organisations. If conflicts in these countries escalate, Europe will be at risk, and its citizens may become victims of violence and crime. For example, during the four months of 2023, at least 20,000 refugees from Africa entered Italy, the figure was less than 6,100 during the same period last year. Putin wants revenge on Europe for its support of Ukraine and wants to create global chaos by artificially instigating wars in Africa through his influence on local rulers close to the Kremlin and using Wagner's trained and heavily armed mercenaries.
Russia's hybrid threats are transnational, threatening every country in the world. Putin uses misanthropic tactics to drive people out of their homes, causing waves of refugees to become a burden on Europe and a factor in increased crime and epidemics. Russia is widely employing hybrid leverage: in addition to the covert transfer to the EU of demobilised Russian criminals who took part in the war against Ukraine, at least 800,000 refugees from Sudan could flood into Europe in the coming months. The outbreak of war in Sudan is only the first stage of Putin's plan to provoke large-scale conflicts in Africa, whose ultimate goal is to damage Europe with an unstoppable flow of refugees. The Russian hybrid threats have exposed the EU's vulnerability and insecurity, and one can only hope that the governments of the organisation will do everything necessary to avert disaster, otherwise, the infamous tragic events of New Year's Eve 2015 in Cologne may be repeated across Europe.
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