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Russian intelligence chief to replace Wagner head

 August 29, 2023

General Andrey Averyanov, renowned for his role in Russia's covert military endeavors, has been selected to steer the Wagner Mercenary Group's initiatives in Africa.

The decision follows the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mastermind behind Wagner's African blueprint, Fox News reported.

Averyanov's Past: Allegations of Targeting Russian Dissidents

Averyanov's profile is not without controversy; he's previously faced allegations of orchestrating hits against Russian dissenters.

In a move indicating his growing influence, Averyanov was spotted conferring with African dignitaries at a Russia-Africa conference held in July.

Notably, this gathering also marked Prigozhin's initial public appearance after his fleeting defiance of President Vladimir Putin's administration.

Prigozhin, the Wagner Group leader, was killed last week in a plane crash outside Moscow.

The crash claimed the lives of several of Wagner's elite, including Prigozhin's right-hand man, Dmitry Utkin, and the group's civilian logistics coordinator, Valery Chekalov.

Tensions and Shifts in Wagner's Strategy

In a swift response to the group's brief rebellion earlier in the year, Putin had instructed Wagner to pull back its operations from Ukraine.

Yet, the group's presence and influence in Africa remain undiminished.

The group hasn't merely been consolidating its position in the past few weeks but has been progressively broadening its activities, boasting around 5,000 combatants throughout the Africa region, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Prigozhin had proposed deploying mercenaries to assist the coup orchestrators in Niger, mirroring his actions in adjacent Mali.

Uncertainties Surrounding Prigozhin's Demise

While the exact circumstances leading to Prigozhin's jet crash remain mysterious, some analysts speculate a directive from Putin himself.

Following the incident, search teams retrieved ten bodies from the debris. After conducting DNA tests, Russian authorities confirmed Prigozhin's identity among the recovered.

Commenting on the incident, Putin portrayed Prigozhin as someone who faced life's adversities, stating he was a "man of difficult fate" but also acknowledged his abilities and contributions.

He stated, "[Prigozhin] made serious mistakes in life, and he achieved the results he needed — both for himself and, when I asked him about it, for the common cause, as in these last months. He was a talented man, a talented businessman."

A source from the Wagner Group based in Africa, when speaking to the WSJ, emphasized the need for stability.

He noted, "It would be harmful to make changes immediately. The first concern now is not to lose control of the situation while waiting for the appointment of one (or more) heirs."