Five Ghanaians are in police grips, since August this year, and have since made an appearance in court where they were charged with “planning to overthrow the government and destabilizing the peace.”
The arrest took place on August 14, 2023, and was related to a protest organized by a pro-Russian outfit led by one Michael Asiedu, the administrator of Mikado News, a Facebook blog with 1.5K followers that publishes pro-Russian content.
A detailed report by GhanaFact said he was arrested along with four others "by the Ghana Police Service for wearing shirts with Wagner inscriptions."
The report added that their investigations pointed to the fact that the said protest happened on August 13, 2023, at Diabene Park in Takoradi, the capital of the Western Region of Ghana.
"In attendance at the rally were young people with some holding placards with various inscriptions, including – “Biden is a warmonger” and “Long live Russia,” and flags of Ghana, Russia, Niger, Mali and Algeria," the report stated.
Four days later, on August 18, 2023, Michael Asiedu and the four others were granted bail and scheduled to appear in court on October 3, 2023.
The GhanaFact report points to the work of Asiedu and others in pushing a pro-Russia view as part of a shadowy campaign believed to be in the wider interest of Russian mercenary group, Wagner.
The GhanaFact report as produced below extensively covered areas like their shadowy online campaigns and funding methods used towards mobilization for the August protest.
Operational tactics in Ghana
On the Telegram pages, GhanaFact discovered details of the operational procedures of the network. The pages are used as the source of disseminating information, which implies that any information posted on the pages is subsequently replicated on other media, including Twitter and Facebook.
For instance, a post about Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Member of Parliament of North Tongu, shared on the AussieCossack channel has been reshared multiple times on X (here, here and here).
Also, on August 7, a flyer for a protest dubbed the West African Freedom Rally was posted on the DDGeopolitics telegram channel, and within 24 hours it was amplified across other online media platforms (here, here, here and here). The poster had details such as date, venue, time and guests from the two major political parties in Ghana:
Mr. Kwame, Sir Obed Amponsang, Mr. Ernest Asomani, Madam Akita, Madam Ernestina Amoafoa from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Madam Akosua Yeboah from the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
GhanaFact also found links to podcasts and Twitter space conversations where plans ahead of the pro-Russian/ pro-Wagner protests in Ghana were discussed together with issues relating to logistics for their operations in Ghana.
Through our investigations, the team identified the local point man of the Ghana project, Michael Asiedu, the administrator of Mikado News, a Facebook blog with 1.5K followers that publishes pro-Russian content.
As part of plans to organise the pro-Russian/pro-Wagner protest, 3 online events in the form of podcasts/Twitter spaces were organised on the 5th, 10th and 12th of August 2023.
The August 5 meeting was held on TNT radio, a radio podcast program detailing the initial planning stages. Among the issues discussed were the proposed venue [Independence Square], expected turnout , funding [crowdfunding] and local political backing.
The show host, Aussie Cossack revealed that the Russian Embassy had been informed about the planned protest but did not want to be involved in it’s organisation. (4:44-5:50)
The August 10 discussion was held on X (Twitter) space and was hosted by DDGeopolitics. During the event, Aussie Cossack stated (13:19-15:00, 36:40-36:53) that the organisers of the rally had the backing of the Russian Government, the Soviet Peace Fund and the Wagner PMC with a strong warning to all anti-Russian elements, including the Ghana Police Service not to harass the participants.
Further research by GhanaFact revealed the actual name of Aussie Cossack, the administrator of the Telegram page, to be Simeon Boikov, a pro-Russian Australian citizen currently seeking asylum at the Russian Embassy in Sydney, Australia.
During one of their online discussions, concerns about local authorities in Ghana refusing to grant permission for the rally were raised while citing the government’s position on the Wagner group.
At the last engagement on August 12, 2023, the host, Aussie Cossack, confirmed that he had sent crowdsourced funds and Russian flags to Michael Asiedu through global money transfer and payment service – Western Union and the Russian Embassy in Ghana respectively.
Protest funding in Ghana
An appeal for funds was made (1,2) on August 6, calling on people to support the pro-Russain/ pro-Wagner protests in Ghana and GhanaFact investigations found about $ 6,000 was used in organising the protest.
The investigations found AUD 2471.5 was directly sent to the organisers of the protest in Ghana, with AUD 691.5 being used for purchasing and shipping 200 Russian flags to the Russian embassy in Ghana.
A screenshots of the money sent to organisers of the pro-Russian protest
Before the purchase of the 200 flags on August 8, publications by two online Russian newspapers, RiaNovosty and EADaily, on August 5 revealed an earlier shipment of 100 flags to Ghana by Aussie Cossack.
GhanaFact also found a receipt written in the name of the Wagner PMC, dated August 7, that ordered 1000 T-shirts for the protestors at a cost of GHS 50,000 or $4,300.