UK’s Special Forces to take on Russia in Africa

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THE various branches of the UK’s Special Forces are to be deployed to counter growing Russian influence in Africa, the BBC has reported.

The news organisation said the Special Operations Concept would also take on other forces around the world.

‘Military chiefs believe Russia has been using its military intelligence arm, the GRU, effectively in Ukraine, Syria and Africa,’ the report said.

It added: ‘For example, under the new plan, an operation might be mounted in a Baltic republic or African country in order to uncover and pinpoint Russian covert activities.

“Then a decision would be made as to whether to make public what had been learned, or to cooperate secretly with local security forces in order to disrupt it.’

The UK’s Ministry of Defence does not usually comment on the activities of the country’s special forces, but the BBC said it got its information from ‘people familiar with’ the Special Operations Concept.

It said the ‘concept involves changing both the structure of the military’s secretive units and what they do.’

Government insiders told the BBC: ‘The plan is currently being considered by military chiefs… and will soon be sent to ministers and is likely to be approved.’

The BBC quoted one senior British military officer as saying: ‘Right now, you do nothing or you escalate.

‘We want to expand that competitive space.’

However, the BBC noted: ‘British politicians’ appetite for risk is limited and the capture of a party of Special Forces operators and MI6 officers in Libya eight years ago showed the potential for embarrassment that comes with such missions.’

The report comes in the wake of an exclusive story last week in the Guardian, a British daily newspaper, which said: ‘Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents.”’

The report has gained traction in other Western media organisations, including in the US where Russia has been entangled in a controversy over Donald Trump’s election as president.

The Guardian said its report was based on leaked Russian documents obtained by the London-based Dossier Centre, which says on its website that it ‘tracks the criminal activity of various people associated with the Kremlin.’

It is funded by Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is a critic of the regime of President Vladimir Putin.

The document outlines in great detail Russian ambitions in Africa, with the Guardian noting: ‘One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region.’

The newspaper explained: ‘Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s. But Western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea have driven Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities.’

The paper said Kremlin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin was ‘leading [the] push to turn [the] continent into [a] strategic hub.’

He was doing this through ‘multiple firms [that] are known by employees as the Company.’

The newspaper added: ‘A map from December 2018 seen by the Guardian shows the level of co-operation between the Company and African governments, country by country.

‘Symbols indicate military, political and economic ties, police training, media and humanitarian projects, and ‘rivalry with France.’

‘Five is the highest level; one is the lowest. The closest relations are with CAR [Central African Republic], Sudan and Madagascar – all put at five. Libya, Zimbabwe and South Africa are listed as four, according to the map, with South Sudan at three, and DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], Chad and Zambia at two.

‘So far Moscow has signed military co-operation deals with about 20 African states.’

The newspaper added: ‘More immediate practical measures include setting up Russian-controlled non-governmental organisations in African states and organising local meetings.

‘It is unclear how many Prigozhin initiatives have actually gone forward.

‘There is evidence that media projects mentioned in the documents are now up and running – albeit with marginal impact.

‘They include a website, Africa Daily Voice, with its HQ in Morocco, and a French-language news service, Afrique Panorama, based in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo,’ the Guardian said.

In October, the first Russia-Africa summit will take place in Sochi and is aimed at fostering political, economic and cultural co-operation.

The Kremlin said President Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi would jointly chair the event, which is expected to be attended by about 50 African leaders.

 

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