Russia is planning to step up its military cooperation with African countries as part of its new Africa strategy, including building bases in six countries, Germany daily Bild reported Tuesday, citing a secret German Foreign Ministry report.
The classified document on what it calls "Russia's new Africa ambitions" says Russian President Vladimir Putin had made "Africa a top priority."
An important aspect of Russia's advance in Africa is military cooperation with some of the continent's dictatorial regimes, it said.
"Since 2015, Russia has concluded military cooperation agreements with 21 countries in Africa," according to the leaked document.
Previously, there were only four military cooperation treaties across the entire continent, it added.
Furthermore, it said, the Kremlin was "contractually assured" it would "be allowed to build military bases in six countries," namely the Central African Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Sudan.
Moreover, Russia's army is partially secretly and partially officially training soldiers from those countries, according to the report, which claimed for instance that 180 Russian army instructors were currently based in the Central African Republic or elsewhere in Africa, adding that: "Around 20 Malian soldiers are trained in Russia every year."
But Russia is not only aiming for a permanent deployment of its troops in Africa but it also increasingly relying on private armies or proxy groups like the Wagner Group, infamous for supporting putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar in Libya, said the report.
Ministry experts labeled the group a Russian "hybrid instrument to exert political, economic, and military influence."
Kremlin mercenaries could also be deployed to help stabilize dictatorial African regimes, it said.
The capabilities of Russia's armed forces and mercenaries are "of great interest for autocratic regimes in possible use against their own people," the report added.
Meanwhile, Russia is already a major arms supplier to the African continent.
With a market share of 37.6%, Russia is the top weapons supplier to Africa, followed by the US with 16%, France with 14%, and China with 9%.
Algeria reportedly remains the biggest recipient of Russian arms in Africa, followed by Egypt, Sudan, and Angola.