“Wagner”: a comic book traces the history of the group of Russian mercenaries

The African conquest of the Russian mercenary group Wagner has already been the subject of two propaganda films, produced by their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died on August 23, 2023

“Wagner”: a comic book traces the history of the group of Russian mercenaries

The African conquest of the Russian mercenary group Wagner has already been the subject of two propaganda films, produced by their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died on August 23, 2023. It is now the subject of a much more critical look with the BD investigates Wagner, the secret history of Putin's mercenaries by journalists Mathieu Olivier and Benjamin Roger, illustrated by Thierry Chavant. From Bangui to Bamako via Moscow, Kiev, Douala and Khartoum, it tells how, since 2016, in the Central African Republic then in Mali, Evgueni Prigojine has built an empire whose dividends have allowed Russia to fuel its efforts. war in Ukraine.

Concentrated on the investigations carried out since 2021 by the two journalists from Jeune Afrique, the work, published by Les Arènes BD on Thursday February 8, deciphers the workings which allowed Wagner, already present in Ukraine and Syria since 2014-2015, to spread its tentacles in Africa. With precision and pedagogy, the two reporters dissect the mining predation implemented by the group, from the extraction of gold from the Ndassima mine (Central African Republic) to its laundering in Dubai through well-established smuggling networks. organized.

How also Moscow replicated this model in Bamako when the diplomatic wind turned in its favor, after the coup d'état of May 2021 and the installation in power of colonels in a hurry to reverse their alliance with France.

While recounting the brutal and victoryless war of Russian paramilitaries against jihadist groups in Mali, the journalists trace the movements of Wagner's men from one theater of operations to another, as needed, like the many mercenaries who left the Central African Republic for Ukraine in 2022, where they became “cannon fodder for the Russian army.”

Economic ambitions

The comic also highlights, in a chapter where the words fade away to let the illustrations of Thierry Chavant speak, the horrors committed by Wagner on the African continent. Their climax was in the village of Moura, in central Mali, in March 2022, where at least 500 civilians were killed by the Russians and the Malian armed forces, under the guise of counter-terrorism. Nourished by the information collected over the last three years by its authors, it also relates the group's most recent economic ambitions, such as its attempt in 2023 to get its hands on the coffee and sugar sectors in the Central African Republic.

Through this graphic story, the rise of Yevgeny Prigojine is finally outlined, the construction of his fortune in the restaurant business and his entry into the world of Russian oligarchs in the rubble of the USSR. The incredible story of a man who dreamed of being a professional skier in his youth and who, after nine years behind bars for organized theft, fraud and participation in a prostitution network, ended up finding himself at the head of a of the most powerful networks of armed men in the world.

Its fall, after its abortive offensive against Moscow in June 2023, is as romantic as its beginnings. The following month, from his Belarusian lands of exile, the man who was long nicknamed "Putin's cook" reappeared surrounded by hundreds of men and announced, as the two authors report, that Wagner was going to "take a new path : Africa”. Evgueni Prigojine was then seen in the Central African Republic and Mali, his final African trip before dying in the crash of his private plane in Russia.

“Was Yevgeny Prigozhin trying to survive his Ukrainian failure by focusing on his African backyard, where he built his empire? Was he also afraid of seeing it slip away? », ask Mathieu Olivier and Benjamin Roger. If this was the case, recent history will have proven Wagner's boss right because, since his death, Moscow has taken official control of the group's activities in Africa.