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Home News CAfrica to receive 600 more Russian ‘instructors’

CAfrica to receive 600 more Russian ‘instructors’

Published on 20/05/2021

The Central African Republic notified the UN Security Council it intends to welcome 600 new Russian “instructors,” in addition to hundreds of paramilitaries who have been helping it fight a rebellion, diplomatic sources said Thursday.

Moscow, which wields significant influence in the vast yet poor African nation, has since 2018 maintained a large contingent of “instructors” to train the Central African army.

They were joined last December by hundreds of other Russian paramilitaries, along with Rwandan troops, who were key in aiding President Faustin Archange Touadera’s army thwart a rebellion.

Bangui referred to the Russian “military” in a bilateral defense accord, before Moscow corrected it by referring to them as “instructors.”

Numerous witnesses and NGOs say that the instructors are in fact paramilitaries from the Wagner Group, a shadowy private military company that is actively participating in the fight against CAR rebels, alongside Rwandan special forces and UN peacekeepers.

The CAR sent a notification to the Security Council on May 10 announcing “the forthcoming provision by Russia of 600” additional instructors, UN diplomatic sources told AFP Thursday, without giving further details.

Officially, Moscow only acknowledges the presence of 535 Russian instructors in CAR, under contract with the Central African defense ministry.

Russia also says the instructors train Central African soldiers or provide protection for Touadera but do not fight “unless they are targeted,” Russian ambassador Vladimir Titorenko told AFP recently.

But according to several diplomatic and security sources in the CAR, there are currently between 800 and 2,000 Russian paramilitaries in the country.

Russia has significantly increased its presence and influence in CAR, where Russian national Valery Zakharov serves as national security advisor to Touadera.

Bangui has also granted Central African gold and diamond mining permits to Russian companies suspected of links to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and alleged to be the Wagner Group’s main financier.

At the end of March, a group of UN experts expressed concern about reports of serious human rights violations by paramilitaries fighting alongside Central African soldiers, referring in particular to Wagner Group fighters.