Best known for its mercenaries, the Wagner Group also mines diamonds, spreads disinformation and props up autocrats in an effort to grow Russia’s footprint.
But Wagner is far more than a simple guns-for-gold scheme. Operating through a sprawling web of shell companies, it has become a byword for a broad spectrum of Kremlin-backed operations in over a dozen African countries. Wagner meddles in politics, props up autocrats and orchestrates digital propaganda campaigns. It donates food to the poor and produces action movies set in Africa. It has even organized a beauty pageant.