Longtime Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin ran the private military company until August, when he died in an apparent plane bombing. The notorious Russian mercenary Wagner Group has adopted a new name in the Sahel region of West Africa that happens to be identical to the one used by the Nazis’ African battalions during World War II. The paramilitary group now known as “Africa Corps,” closely mirroring the Nazi “Afrika Korps,” has been shoring up power in the Central African Republic, Libya, and other African nations since at least 2018. Hitler created the Afrika Korps in 1941 to help Italy, part of the Axis, maintain and expand its territorial gains in Northern Africa. The Nazi leader gave the infamous commander Edwin Rommel the job of leading the elite unit until it dissolved in 1943. Wagner’s name change appeared to come as Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov visited several African nations, including Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, in early December to maintain Russia’s presence in the region during the period of transition, French newspaper Le Monde reported. Igor Korotchenko, a journalist and former colonel with close ties to the Kremlin, said in November the new organization would aim to “support countries seeking to finally get rid of neocolonial dependence, cleanse the Western presence and acquire full sovereignty.” Western officials say Russia hopes to expand its sphere of influence in Africa, especially in Niger and Burkina Faso, where recent coups have led to a power vacuum. Vladimir Putin last year said he’d invaded Ukraine in part to “denazify” the country, claiming without evidence that it had committed genocide in the region. But Ukraine’s own president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish, and some of the separatists forces fighting on Russia’s side — and under the Wagner banner — have been described by analysts as neo-Nazis.

via msn: Russia’s Wagner Group Rebrands to Name Used by Nazis in Africa