The attempt to clean up the image of the ‘company’
In the action film ‘Tourist’, presented in Bangui at an event with 10,000 people, military instructors associated with the Wagner group are deployed in the Central African Republic where they fight reluctantly against bloodthirsty rebels and a corrupt former politician on the eve of presidential elections . “Americans fight for democracy, we fight for justice,” recites the protagonist.
In “Granite” instead an idealistic Russian trainer sacrifices himself to protect Mozambique from bloodthirsty Islamist terrorists. Then there is also “The Best in Heaven”, in which Wagner mercenaries take on an explicitly unidentified, but clearly Ukrainian-inspired enemy, in an unspecified but equally clearly Donbass-inspired location. “We have a contract. A contract with the company, a contract with the country. We know we’re going to hell. But in hell we’ll be the best”, is declaimed at the beginning and end of the film. All three films are available on youtube, where they have already been viewed by tens of millions of people.
It is the attempt by Evgheny Prigozhin, with his film production company Aurum Productions and the Paritet studios, to clean up the image of his company, after the videos and stories of the brutal work of his mercenaries in battle, starting from the killing of a Syrian deserter with a club in 2017 or from the video in which an ex-convict and later a deserter is killed, again with a club, which later became the symbol of the group.
An attempt that also includes cartoons, such as “The Lion and the Bear”, in French, in which a Russian bear crosses the continents to come to the rescue of a lion in the Central African Republic to defeat the hyenas that are destroying the crops. In another, a mercenary paratrooper comes to the aid of a soldier in Mali, and helps him fend off hordes of zombies wearing French flag helmets.
“In Mali, there was already a lot of anti-French rhetoric before the Russian influence effort began. But Russian strategic communication managed to fan the flames,” explained Ovigwe Egunegu, a Nigerian policy analyst at the Beijing-based consultancy Development reimagined, in its report titled “Private Military Diplomacy” by Moscow.