Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic: reality or fictions of the malevolent West?

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Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic: reality or fictions of the malevolent West?
Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic: reality or fictions of the malevolent West?
2 July 2021, 18:13Politics
The scandal with "Russian mercenaries" fighting in the hinterland of the Central African Republic (CAR) has reached the global level. The UN has prepared a report on the alleged robberies, torture and even killings of civilians who support local rebels.

Sergey Kron

The porridge was brewed by the American newspaper The New York Times. She said that UN officials have prepared a sensational report on "Russian mercenaries" illegally operating in the CAR. As if, on the basis of eyewitness testimony and photographs, international detectives were able to prove that "Putin's thugs" in the CAR "seized schools and residential buildings, and also killed civilians, including believers in mosques".

The real number of Russian military advisers on the territory of the CAR, according to the UN, allegedly exceeds the figures announced by official Moscow - 2.1 thousand instead of 550 people.

Moreover, according to Western media, at the beginning of 2021, Russian fighters of the private military company PMC Wagner established control over several large diamond mining centers in the CAR. And in general, they say, these bandits operate on the territory of an independent African state under the guise of advisers.

Rumors also appeared on social networks that Russia intends to build its official military base in the CAR.

An intergovernmental agreement on military cooperation between Russia and the CAR was signed in August 2018. After that, a training center for the Central African military was created in the city of Berengo. Russian instructors teach them how to handle weapons and combat methods. Recently, the Chief of the General Staff of the Central African Republic came to study in Russia.

Whatever it was, the US permanent representative to the UN demanded that Russia immediately "remove the marauders" from the CAR. According to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, "they threaten the UN peacekeepers and their work in support of peace in the republic".

Moscow categorically denies all accusations against it. The press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov was unspeakably surprised by what he heard and hastened to comment: “Russian military advisers could not and did not participate in either murders or robberies. This is another lie!"

The Russian Foreign Ministry reminded Novye Izvestia: the Bangui authorities are fighting the armed rebels, in particular, using the support of the UN peacekeeping contingent, which includes military personnel from Russia. On Smolenskaya Square, they do not hide the fact that back in December last year, our country, at the request of the official authorities, additionally sent 300 military instructors to the CAR and notified the relevant UN Security Council committee of this.

The Russian embassy in the CAR, in turn, said that international experts have not yet presented irrefutable evidence of the crimes committed in the CAR. Our diplomats in Bangui emphasize that "Russian instructors are not mercenaries and arrived in the CAR at the official request of the local authorities." It is alarming that the UN Working Group does not mention other “foreign mercenaries” operating in the country and, in general, should “focus on the investigation of crimes committed by mercenaries of various armed groups. In particular, at the atrocities of the CPC, the rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change, led by ex-President François Bozizet.

The CAR presidential administration has also denied Western media reports of Russians allegedly killing Africans. “The New York Times journalists did not even bother to visit the Central African Republic to confirm the above facts. The UN report is deceitful and defamatory, based on rumors circulated on social media, ”the administration said in a statement in Bangui.

What we know about the CAR

No reference book in the world will call this African country “rich”. Although there has always been something to fight for - since ancient times, diamonds have been mined in the CAR, they washed gold, and now they are fighting for uranium mines.

It is also a former French colony. Even after independence in 1960, the CAR has always remained a traditional area of interest for Paris. But the Soviet secretary general L.I. Brezhnev, who invited His Imperial Majesty Bokassa to visit Moscow in 1970. The African monarch was by that time known throughout the world as ... a cannibal. This, in any case, was told by his personal chef, who served the president for dinner with fried opposition leaders in mayonnaise and with a sprig of dill in his mouth. As a result, Bokassa's visit did not bring the parties any agreements and contracts. Even trade remained low.

In the CAR, from about 2003-2004, an intricate ethnic-religious conflict between Christians and Muslims began, leading to several coups, massive bloodshed, atrocities and the loss of control by the central government in Bangui over most of the state's territory. In fact, today the country is divided between various armed gangs, the main of which are the Christian group "Antibalaka" and the Islamist alliance "Seleka".

According to the French newspaper Libération, militants of all groups in the CAR are engaged in ethnic cleansing, as well as racketeering and extortion on the roads, which are ruining the country's already breathing economy.

In recent years, the CAR has been attended by UN peacekeeping forces from several African states, as well as, since 2013, the seventh French military mission. However, in 2016, French servicemen, who were repeatedly accused of various crimes, primarily mass rape, were withdrawn from the country - after which there was virtually no one to fight numerous armed insurgents. Before the Russians appeared there.

What UN experts saw in the CAR

Back in late March, the UN Working Group under the Office of the High Commissioner issued a report condemning the increasing use of private mercenaries in the CAR. The document also names the Russian military structures - PMC Wagner, Sewa Security Services, created in 2017 and considered a branch of Wagner and Lobaye Invest SARLU, also created in the CAR in 2017.

According to the UN, these military companies are directly responsible for mass extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture during interrogations, disappearances, attacks on civilians and rape. In total, human rights defenders counted at least one hundred such episodes, in which Russian structures were allegedly involved.

Here are examples from the report of UN experts. In February 2021, "Russian mercenaries" entered the city of Bambari. Fleeing from them, local residents took refuge in a mosque. Eyewitnesses said that the military broke into the mosque and opened fire indiscriminately.

There, mercenaries executed three young men without trial. Two days after the end of the fighting on the territory of the mosque, it was possible to collect all the corpses. The video, viewed by journalists from the French edition of RFI and confirmed by Amnesty International, counted 15 killed, including children and the elderly who were victims of stray bullets.

In December 2020, a truck with 30 civilians did not stop at the request of the Wagnerites at a checkpoint on the road from Bambari to Bangui. One of the crew members explained that the outpost was not visible from afar, and the car was bulky and did not have time to stop. As a result, the military, without waiting for the truck to stop, opened fire on it, intending to kill as many people as possible. Of the 30 people in the truck, 15 were seriously injured and three were killed. Having finished shooting, one of the mercenaries took out a rocket launcher to blow up a car with people, but at the last moment he was stopped by local officers ...

In February, fighting in the streets of Bambari ended, and the surviving rebels began to hide among the civilian population, which was the beginning of mass "sweeps" by mercenaries. Even representatives of the official authorities of the Central African Republic admit their systematic and arbitrary nature: many were detained and arrested on suspicion or denunciation, and attempts to find missing relatives were unsuccessful.

On the road at the entrance to Grimari, a barrier was set up, near which passengers of passing buses are searched. “The men were forced to undress. If you have a small scar on your body, even from an accident or an operation, they immediately suspect that you are a rebel, and then it's all over, ”one of the bus passengers told the UN representatives. After the search, not everyone returned to the salon, but the passengers did not dare to find out what happened to the detainees, as everyone was scared.

UN experts have also documented cases of sexual violence.

The report details a case of gang rape in Yalok, located 200 kilometers northwest of the capital. “Six men broke down the door in the house and“ collectively raped a 24-year-old woman under the threat of weapons, ”the document says.

Local residents also complain about looting. According to them, the mercenaries do not buy food, but kill animals that people keep, and take away not only money, motorcycles or phones, but also foam mattresses and even plastic chairs, and sometimes burn houses. Thus, 120 houses were burned down in Bentsamba.

The Wagnerites themselves occupy public buildings, including churches and schools. The state of emergency introduced in the CAR also serves as a cover for crimes.

In April, the UN Special Representative in the Republic, Mankeur Ndiaye, after a trip to Moscow, said that the Russian side was ready to cooperate to investigate the described cases of terror. However, Valery Zakharov, adviser to the CAR president on national security, said on Twitter that the Foreign Ministry did not discuss the accusations against "Russian mercenaries", and Ndiaye's statements are allegedly false and have nothing to do with reality.

Immediately reminiscent of the eerie videos depicting many corpses, mostly children, victims of a chemical attack by the Syrian army in Khan Sheikhoun, which caused a wide resonance throughout the world. The mainstream media instantly began spreading nightmarish footage of Assad's "atrocities" without even trying to figure out the credibility of the information broadcasted. But it all turned out to be fake.

So in the case of the CAR, one has only to guess which of the crimes of the mercenaries were in fact, and which were invented by their opponents. It is almost impossible to conduct an objective, independent investigation in a country engulfed in chaos and terror from all sides.

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