France stamped the “seizure of power” by Russia in the CAR
France has accused Russia of “seizing power” in the Central African Republic (CAR), acknowledging that CAR cooperation with Russian “mercenaries” has forced Paris to reduce its military cooperation, AFP reported.
Earlier this month, the French military cut off budget aid and military co-operation with the CAR, accusing the African government of being an “accomplice” in a Russian-backed anti-French disinformation campaign.
The CAR has become a key area in the dispute over the role of the Wagner mercenary group in Africa (the Kremlin’s weapon, which does not officially exist), run by shady Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigogine, a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin.
“In the Central African Republic, there is a form of seizure of power, and in particular military power, by Russian mercenaries,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television, adding: “We are fighting this and it has made us to take measures to withdraw a certain number of our troops. “
He said the Russian military had bypassed CAR President Faustin Archang Tuadera and exploited the country’s wealth.
One of the poorest countries in the world, the CAR has been chronically unstable since gaining independence from France in 1960.
In 2013, France launched a 3-year military operation to stop sectarian violence after then-President Francois Bozize was ousted by predominantly Muslim rebel groups.
The CAR’s closer relationship with Moscow dates back to 2018, when Russia sent “instructors” to help train its armed forces and provided it with small arms, receiving relief from the UN arms embargo.
Last December, under a bilateral co-operation agreement, the Kremlin sent several hundred troops to fortify Tuadera, which was threatened by a rebel offensive.
The Russians also provide personal protection for the president, and his influential national security adviser, Valery Zakharov, is Russian.
In an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche on May 30, French President Emmanuel Macron said that “anti-French talks have given legitimacy to the predatory Russian mercenaries at the top of the state. Tuadera is now a hostage of the Wagner group.”
In July 2018, three Russian journalists investigating Wagner’s operations in the CAR for investigative media – Orhan Jemal, Alexander Rastorguev and Kiril Radchenko – were killed in an ambush.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oligarch in exile and a critic of the Kremlin, is funding their project, and the investigation he backed linked their murder to Prigogine.
But Russian investigators denied the allegations, insisting the trio had died in a robbery.
Prigogine, who has been sanctioned by both the EU and the United States, has denied allegations of links to Wagner and denied any role in the conflicts in Africa.