The secretive businessman known as Vladimir Putin’s “chef” for his Kremlin catering work is alleged to have helped Russia seize parts of Ukraine, turn the tide in the Syrian war and meddle in US elections. Now he’s reaching deep into Africa with an army of mercenaries and spin doctors in tow to cash in on his newfound expertise. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur from Putin’s native St Petersburg, has emerged as an unlikely point man in Russia’s belated push to bolster its geopolitical might by rekindling Cold War ties across a largely underdeveloped region laden with untapped mineral wealth. Lacking the financial muscle of its main rivals, the US, Europe and China, Russia is carving out a niche by shoring up strongmen in unstable but potentially rich states who have a taste for Russian weaponry. Prigozhin and his hodgepodge of contract soldiers and political operatives are offering security, arms training and electioneering services in exchange for mining rights and other opportunit...

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