ROME (dpa-AFX) – Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto has linked the increasing number of Mediterranean migrants to “hybrid warfare” by Russian mercenaries. The massive increase in arrivals from Africa is due to the influence of the Russian mercenary group Wagner in some African countries, the minister said, according to a statement on Monday.

    For weeks, Italy has been discussing the arrival of thousands of migrants who are making their way from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy in mostly unseaworthy boats. The media are already talking about a “migrant boom”.

    More than 1,200 people reached Italy over the weekend. There was also a boat accident off the Libyan coast on Sunday, in which 30 people are still missing. Dozens of people died in an accident off the southern Italian coast about two weeks ago. According to official figures, Italy has registered more than 20,000 migrants since the beginning of January – in the two previous years there were around 6,000 at this time.

    According to Crosetto, Russia wants to damage some countries, above all Italy, and ultimately influence their geostrategic decisions.

    Russia is trying to expand its influence in Africa. This year, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Eswatini and the crisis-ridden Mali, among other places. Last year he was in Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia. The visits demonstrate Moscow’s participation in the “race for Africa” ​​with China and the United States. The Wagner mercenary group operates in several African countries such as Mali, Libya, the Central African Republic and Mozambique./rme/DP/ngu