The Russian government announced it was sending an additional 600 military instructors to the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) to train the army, police, and national gendarmerie, Russia’s foreign ministry said over the weekend. This comes despite a UN report, released last week, accusing Russian Wagner Group mercenaries, and the Central African troops they are advising, of targeting civilians with excessive force and indiscriminate killings, occupying schools, and conducting large-scale looting.

Russia denied any wrongdoing on the part of the mercenaries, stating it was in the best interest of the rebel groups, who are trying to overthrow the government, to spread these falsehoods. 

“Russian military advisers could not and did not take part in the killings or robberies. This is yet another lie,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said to the media in response to the UN report.

Russia Increases its Presence in the Central African Republic Amid UN Outcry
A member of the close protection unit of Central African Republic President Touadera. The unit is composed of Russian private security company operatives (AFP)

The Russian government reported to the UN Security Council the arrival of the additional 600 military advisers and contractors although it omitted the exact date that the instructors arrived. 

The Russians and French both have jockeyed for influence in the embattled but mineral-rich country.

Russia Has Displaced France in the Country

The French have accused the Russian government of being behind the deluge of anti-French disinformation that blames France for all of C.A.R.’s ills and touts Russian influence. The disinformation spread on social media and emanated from Russia. It resulted in the French suspending operations in C.A.R. as well as $12.1 million in aid to the Central African military.

C.A.R. was a French colony. It has been beset by problems and since 2013 has been fighting an insurgency.

Initially, the French stopped the insurgency. But as they withdrew the majority of their troops, then-president Faustin-Archange Touadéra turned to Moscow for military help.