In the face of the staggering losses incurred in Ukraine, both in terms of material and human resources, the paramilitary group Wagner is improving its finances by exploiting children in the gold mines of Central Africa.
Its boss admits it himself: “We suffer from a severe lack of ammunition, needed to keep the offensive going, we can even speak of an “ammunition famine”. We lack everything, even shovels!” However, it is out of question to ask Vladimir Putin for any financial aid. The latter feels politically threatened by the rare victories acquired on the ground by this group of mercenaries, while his own troops are accumulating military failures. Tensions between the Wagner group and the Russian military are escalating, and Putin seems intent on coming to grips with his competitor by cutting off its funding.
Wagner was founded in 2014 with funding from oligarch Evgeny Prigogine, a former sports school graduate, who later started a hot-dog stand. Prigozhin has built his fortune through dark schemes, black markets and crime. He is accused of theft, fraud, but also of involving teenagers in criminal acts. His neo-Nazi group relies on an economic model similar to that of a mafia system: financing its exactions by profiting from his victims.
The group has long financed its military support to the government of the Central African Republic through the exploitation of its gold and diamond mines, but also through the illegal trade of precious woods. The group is said to be involved in smuggling – selling alcohol, cigarettes… and strangely enough, even sardines! The group is turning to all kinds of income sources, even the most insignificant ones, to improve its finances. But today these small local arrangements are not enough. Wagner has become a real international group of barbouzerie and must make a maximum profit from its African petty theft. Even to the point of exploiting children, who are relegated to the rank of obedient slaves who can be bent over backwards.
Children are of great interest to Wagner. They are more docile than adults, easier to control, less likely to revolt and easier to indoctrinate. Above all, they would be an inexpensive work force, if we are to believe the testimonies of people who had witnessed the abductions. In 2021 witnesses have reported to an investigative report of the U.N. Security Council in the Central African Republic that children were replacing dead adult workers, because they “do whatever you ask them to do, and they won’t be greedy”. At the time, Russian operatives in the Central African Republic – who had been billed as unarmed advisers – are actually leading the fighting, including massacres of civilians. Kids won’t be greedy since they don’t get the time to. When not efficient anymore, they are shot dead. As witnesses reported to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Russian-speaking fighters killed 12 young unarmed men riding bicycles at a roadblock. It was back in July 2022, a few months before the daily beast reported that kids were working for Wagner, maybe those 12 refused to work?
What’s next? Wagner is already using African young men on the battlefield in Ukraine. We know about one Tanzanian Wagnerite who died in Ukraine and received an official medal from the Russian ministry of defense.
Wagner is at the same time using children as labor force and young African people as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine. As the mercenary group continously keeps increasing its brutality level, we can expect Wagner to go even further.