Ekene Lionel

Russia has begun the deployment of its troops under the banner of the ‘African Corps‘ in southern Libya. Recent events have seen Russian cargo planes landing at Brak al-Shati, offloading scores of soldiers, while cargo ships carrying equipment docked at the port of Tobruk on Libya’s eastern coast. Let us delve into the details of this deployment and its broader implications.

The ‘African Corps’: Equipment and Armaments

The equipment and armaments of the Russian Armed Forces’ ‘African Corps’ have arrived via the landing ships Ivan Gren and Aleksandr Otrakovskiy. These include a mix of light and heavy vehicles, such as pickups, GAZ and KAMAZ trucks, as well as ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft artillery. This deployment is part of Russia’s intentions to consolidating a formidable military presence in Africa.

Expanding Operations

Reports had previously emerged regarding the deployment of Russian ‘African Corps’ units in Burkina Faso and Nigér. However, the scope of operations extends beyond Libya. Russia aims to establish the core structure of the ‘African Corps’ by the summer of 2024, with plans to operate in other African nations, including Burkina Faso, Mali, the Central African Republic, and Niger.

The African Corps: Structure and Leadership

The African Corps, a key component of the ‘African Corps’, will be directly subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. Oversight will be provided by Deputy Defense Minister Yunusbek Yevkurov, a former president of the Russian republic of Ingushetia. This new military force comprises former Wagner Group operatives and private security contractors affiliated with Russian companies operating in Africa. The formation of the African Legion occurred in August 2023, following the death of Wagner’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. Recruitment efforts spanned both Africa and Russia, commencing in December 2023.

Wagner’s Continued Operations

Despite its leader’s aborted insurrection, Russia’s foreign minister announced last year that Wagner Group would continue operations in Mali and the Central African Republic. The group’s presence remains a significant factor in the region.

Eastern Libya: Russian Presence

In eastern Libya, analysts estimate that the Russian presence ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 individuals. Airbases like Al-Jufra facilitate Russian military flights, serving as layovers before proceeding south to other African nations. The Kremlin’s strategic objective is clear: to bolster its influence in the African continent.

Leveraging Military Strength

Russia’s control over a portion of diamond mines, oil reserves, and valuable mineral deposits in Africa provides a strong incentive for leveraging military strength. The ‘African Corps’ represents a calculated move to secure and expand Russian interests in the region.

The African Legion will focus on providing security and training services to the African governments that host it, as well as protecting Russian interests and investments in the continent.


Ekene Lionel – Award-winning defence writer for more than six years, my articles have been featured in several international defence and aerospace websites.


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