Central Africa calls for help from Russian military

Russia has sent its military to the Central African Republic (CAR) to help the authorities of that country stop the rebel offensive against the capital. This was announced by an official representative of the CAR government. Moscow does not comment on his statement, but expresses concern over "information about the mutiny", Marianna Belenkaya reports on the Russian website Kommersant.

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Central Africa calls for help from Russian military Russian Mi-17s unloaded in Bangui, capital city of the Central African Republic (Picture source: undisclosed)

Russian military advisers have long been in the Central African Republic (CAR) on an official basis, and the presence of fighters of private military companies (PMC, namely the famous Wagner Group) there is no secret. Local media reported about the defeat of "Russian mercenaries" in the city of Mbaiki, about 100 km from the capital of the CAR. At the same time, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov noted that "now there is no threat to the life of one of the Russians."

The situation in the CAR, where presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held on December 27, sharply worsened at the end of last week. The leaders of several armed rebel groups announced the creation of the Coalition of Patriots for Change, which numbered about 9,000 people. The coalition includes groups associated with two of the most influential rebel organizations: the Muslim Seleka and the Christian Antibalaka. Back on Friday, coalition forces launched an offensive on the CAR capital, Bangui. The country's government accused ex-President François Bozizé of attempting a coup d'état, whom the Constitutional Court did not allow to participate in the presidential elections in early December, since back in 2014 the CAR authorities issued an international arrest warrant for his murder, illegal detention, abduction and torture.

Vladimir Monteiro, a representative of the UN Multidisciplinary Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), said that the situation in the republic is under the control of the authorities. “A force of peacekeepers has been deployed to the city of Mbaiki, where fighting took place. Three UN soldiers have been lilled on Friday, December 25.

The capture of the city of Mbaiki, 107 kilometers from the capital of the CAR by the rebels, was reported on Saturday, December 19, by the local news portal Corbeaunews, noting that "the troops of the CAR armed forces and Russian mercenaries have been defeated," but reinforcements are coming to their aid. Journalists also questioned whether MINURCA would cooperate with PMC Wagner in order to "resist the insurgent advance."

Russia has never confirmed the presence of PMC Wagner in the CAR, as well as in other countries, but local media constantly write about this. It was also reported that Russian PMCs provide personal protection for the CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

On Sunday, December 20, the CAR government asked for help in ensuring the security of the electoral process to "friendly and fraternal countries" - Russia and Rwanda. “The two countries mentioned responded positively to this call and took steps to provide effective support that was provided on the same day,” the CAR government said in a statement on Sunday. At the same time, information appeared on social networks about the arrival of Russian aircraft in the CAR, which allegedly delivered weapons, helicopters and PMC employees. At the same time, the press secretary of the CAR government, Ange Maxim Kazagi, told that Russia, within the framework of a bilateral agreement on cooperation, "sent several hundreds of people from the regular forces and heavy equipment." He did not indicate the exact number of people, nor the date of their arrival in the CAR. He also said that the UN plans to increase the 12,000th peacekeeping contingent by another 300 people.

The CAR has undiscovered and underexplored reserves of uranium, gold, diamonds, coltan, copper; it is a hub for regional transit trade. But first of all, this is “export of security” - a sphere in which Russia is trying to occupy its niche in Africa against the background of the weakness of the Russian economy and the inability to compete in business and investment projects with the United States, China and the countries of the former metropolises and with new forces (India, Brazil, Malaysia, Turkey and so on). At least in the field of military cooperation (in particular, in terms of training the Central African armed forces by Russian military advisers and PMC operators), certain successes have been achieved.