Putin’s BRICS dream, Ramaphosa’s nuke nightmare, Wagner’s new leader and the long war…

Russian President Vladimir Putin “really wanted to show up” at the BRICS Summit in South Africa next month – “and he really wanted to show the world that the rules imposed by the international community, as he perceives it, don’t apply to him because that’s what he does; he always gets away with things that are somewhere written or deemed undoable”. These are the words of the Czech Deputy Minister of Defence, Dr. Tomáš Kopečný, who is also the Governmental Envoy for the Reconstruction of Ukraine. He speaks to BizNews following the decision by Putin not to attend the summit next month to avoid getting arrested in terms of an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for war crimes in Ukraine. Dr. Kopečný says there was absolutely no chance that Russia would have gone to war with South Africa if Putin were arrested – as was argued by President Cyril Ramaphosa – because 96% of all its troops are in Ukraine, and they even use equipment that countries from Africa sent to Russia for maintenance overhauls. Dr. Kopečný also speaks to BizNews about the Wagner Group’s renewed focus on Africa under a new commander who “comes from the structures that are much more closely linked with the faithful”. And he gives BizNews the inside track on the Ukrainian counter offensive. – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:10 – Introductions 
  • 00:38 – Dr. Tomáš Kopečný on Putin announcing the new leader of the Wagner group
  • 02:57 – On who is Andrei “Grey Hair” Troshev
  • 08:50 – On the activities of the propaganda arm The Internet research Agency
  • 11:42 – The latest on the war between Russia and Ukraine
  • 13:03 – On how Ukraine’s counter offensive could play out
  • 14:36 – On what the war has done to Putin’s personal position
  • 16:58 – On Putin really wanting to show up for the BRICS summit
  • 22:10 – On the possibility of Russia declaring war on SA if Putin were arrested
  • 26:31 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the interview

Russian President Vladimir Putin “really wanted to show up” at the BRICS Summit in South Africa next month – “and he really wanted to show the world that the rules imposed by the international community, as he perceives it, don’t apply to him because that’s what he does; he always gets away with things that are somewhere written or deemed undoable”.

These are the words of the Czech Deputy Minister of Defence, Dr. Tomáš Kopečný, who is also the Governmental Envoy for the Reconstruction of Ukraine.

Read more: Putin will not attend BRICS summit in South Africa

He speaks to BizNews following the decision by Putin not to attend the summit next month to avoid  getting arrested in terms of an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for war crimes in Ukraine.

“Yes, I believe he really wanted to be there because he felt he would get away with whatever is going on in Ukraine. And he will just re-establish the former influence of the USSR in Africa, also by showing that, you know, Africa is on his side,” says Dr Kopečný.

“He gets away with so many things. So the complete and utter disregard for rules – because they feel like they, and the State, Putin himself especially feels like they should not be bound by any rules – also explains why they really desperately were pushing all over Africa, in so many countries, and we were observing this, to change the minds, especially of the South African government, but also of other partnering countries, and to explain to them that this is a story about an evil West, former colonial empires against a liberator.

“And yet, whenever we follow them and we see how they engage in Africa with countries with whom we try to develop really an eye-to-eye relationship, they always have this rhetoric of… fight against colonialism and fight for equality…and that’s another thing that they get away with. They can claim that they are the force of support against colonialism, and yet they are the biggest practitioner of colonialism, especially since the 60s, since the decolonisation of the Western empires.”

However, Dr. Kopečný says there was absolutely no chance that Russia would have gone to war with South Africa if Putin were arrested, as was argued by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Read more: BRICS Summit to tackle Russian invasion of Ukraine: Uncertainty still surrounding Putin’s attendance

“Ninety-six (96%) of all their troops are in Ukraine. They have no more troops, let alone new carriers, let alone ballistic missiles that could be used anywhere else than in Ukraine right now. So no, I think it’s technically impossible that they would be able to launch another war.

“…besides the fact that they have no more troops that they could use, they even use equipment that their companies were supposed to repair and overhaul for customers…the whole last year, we could be seeing equipment that, for instance, the Indian Army has sent to Russia for repairs, or other countries from Africa sent to Russia for maintenance overhauls. And then we could see these equipment in the battlefield used by the Russian military. So, of course, the customers never got them back.

“…there is nothing else that Russia can do besides struggling for two regions, and that’s the official goal now, two regions to be fully occupied by Russia. And they weren’t able to do that in 500 days. So whatever the excuse or the worries that could be put on table, a fear of Russia is not one that people should be worried about.”

Dr. Kopečný also speaks to BizNews about the Wagner Group’s long-term involvement in Africa. “So we have been hearing many, many words from (Yevgeny) Prigozhin and his successor-in-command about the engagement in Africa, its renewed focus on Africa…they still continue in the same way of doing business as they were started, actually, several years ago.” He says Prigozhin’s successor is somebody who “comes from the structures that are much more closely linked with the faithful”.

Read more: BRICS is crumbling: SA’s foreign policy in jeopardy as Russia weakens and India leans towards USA – Katzenellenbogen

And he gives BizNews the latest update on the long war between Russia and Ukraine: “…the counter-offensive of the Ukrainian troops…is still in the stages of field shaping or battlefield shaping, meaning along the line of 1200 kilometres, there are continuous attempts to penetrate the first line of defence…

“It’s not a stalemate, it’s not a trench war yet, it’s really battlefield shaping. And it can go on for another weeks or months before we could see a really major large-scale counter-offensive using a larger number of troops, because that’s what we haven’t seen so far.”

Asked how this counter-offensive could play out, he says:  “It is quite possible that there will be a breakthrough in some of the commands. It is also quite possible and probable that it will not lead to the complete liberation of the occupied territory of Ukraine this year. And after this counteroffensive, there will be time for regrouping of the troops of Ukraine as well as for Russia. So it will really go in these cycles. “

But he says Ukraine has had the “operational upper hand” for some time now. “Their tactics have been improving ever since the beginning of the war; they have scored numerous successes. They still can and do outplay Russians in many fields that were deemed Russian games or Russian theatre…”

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