Dmitry Syty: The Russian billionaire running Wagner's business ops in Africa

Dmitry Syty: The Russian billionaire running Wagner's business ops in Africa
A young Russian man maintaining Wagner's business interests in Africa has come to the spotlight following the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin
3 min read
28 September, 2023
Amid France's waning influence in the continent, Russia has seen its popularity grow in Africa [Getty]

A young Russian billionaire who has been running Wagner's business operations in Africa is said to be the new face of the mercenary group following the suspicious death of former Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Prigozhin perished in a helicopter crash last month. Some say it may have been an assassination, an act of revenge by the Kremlin after the mercenary leader's June rebellion in Russia.

Despite being active in the group for only a few years, 34-year-old Dmitry Syty is now said to be Wagner’s frontman in Africa, running the group’s multi-billion dollar business in gold, diamonds and other expensive materials in the resource-rich continent.

Russia is the world’s second-largest gold-producing nation and its exports of the metal to the UK market alone were estimated by the British government to be worth £12.6 billion in 2021.

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The Russian gold trade was significantly damaged after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russian Federation bars have since become a taboo product in Western capitals after restrictions were imposed. As a result, the Russian economy was seriously affected as gold sustained the Kremlin's military efforts.

Syty had already gained popularity in the Central African Republic, where residents donned shirts with a picture of his face on them.

He lives in the country’s capital, Bangui, and is surrounded by a military base protected by Wagner fighters.

The Central African Republic – torn apart by over a decade of civil war - has been the hub of Wagner’s business activities in Africa. The group is active in other countries, including Sudan which has been in conflict since mid-April because of fighting between rival military factions.

Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra reportedly told Russia that he wanted Syty and other senior Wagner officials to remain in the country following Prigozhin’s death, to support his government’s fight against rebel groups, according to a Wall Street Journal report, which cited European security officials.

Syty's ties to the country’s leaders and those of other states in the continent have assured Wagner’s continuity, but many have asked how long this will last after Prigozhin.

"People familiar with Wagner’s business operations said he oversees a network of front companies that the group has used to export gold, diamonds, lumber and other raw materials from his base in the Central African Republic," a report by the Wall Street Journal - which wrote a lengthy piece on Syty - said.

The US newspaper was also told that the Wagner-linked billionaire also directs media outlets and social-media campaigns funded by the mercenary group to spread anti-Western propaganda.

He has been placed under sanctions by the US and the European Union.

As France's influence continues to wane in Africa, this leaves Russia more room to move in.

Despite its shaky relationship with Moscow following its former leader's rebellion in June, Wagner looks to be Russia's biggest asset in Africa and capable of maintaining its interests there.

Syty is set to oversee these interests and become Wagner's new 'main man' in Africa.