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New details released about the change of head of the Russian 'Wagner' group

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A recent journalistic investigation by Bellingcat reports about the change of the head of the Wagner Private Military Group. This joint investigation by The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel notes that the new head of the group may be Konstantin Pikalov, better known as 'Mazay', writes Louis Auge.

According to media reports, Mazay participated in the campaign of the group in the Central African Republic (CAR) in early July 2018. From the context of correspondence extracted by journalists of the publication, which concerns his activities in Africa, it becomes clear how influential Mazay is - it is reported that the military adviser to the Central African President personally followed his recommendations.

The media suggest that he was the one who co-ordinated the information and ideological work with the team in the Central African Republic.

Documents obtained by Bellingcat in electronic correspondence show that if Valery Zakharov was formally a military advisor to the CAR President, then Mazay was responsible for important military issues.

For example, one email contains a scanned letter from the local provisional authorities in the town of Bambari to the Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in the Republic of South Africa.

The letter (dated 13 May 2019) requested an urgent and private meeting to "discuss a particularly delicate situation in the town of Bambari". The letters mention that the Russian military command has sent instructions to Mazay for further action.

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The change of the Wagner leadership, according to some experts, may be associated with a change in the format of group.

Dmitry Utkin, who previously headed the company and was responsible for the Ukrainian and Syrian fronts, may have left the group due to changes in the methodology and vector of work.

The private military company has moved from direct participation in military operations to the strategy of military and political training and interaction. According to sources, instead of participating in hostilities, the Wagner group is currently providing consulting and training support in a number of geopolitical hot spots in African countries, including Libya.

The change of the head of the company may be explained by a change in the regional orientation of the company as well. It means increased attention by the group to the African region, in this configuration the change of manager seems reasonable.

Based on an analysis of the information revealed this investigation, one can also draw a possible conclusion that Dmitry Utkin, who led the private military company for a long time, may now have been be killed. At present, his phone number is not functioning, and his regular trips from Krasnodar to St. Petersburg have stopped.

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