Russian and Rwandan troops in Central African Republic to help stop alleged coup, government says
Hundreds of Russian and Rwandan troops have rushed into the Central African Republic (CAR) to stop an alleged coup attempt, according to the government. The troops have already started to fight rebel groups, the government said. On Saturday, CAR’s government accused the forces of former president Francois Bozize of an attempted putsch after three powerful rebel groups merged and started to advance on the capital Bangui. “Russia has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” in the framework of a bilateral cooperation agreement, a government spokesman said. He added: “The Rwandans have also sent several hundred men who are on the ground and have started fighting.” However, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov denied the claims on Monday. “We are not sending troops,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency. Reportedly, the rebels are being held back from the capital. On Sunday, the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission in CAR, Minusca, said the situation was “under control”. The news comes ahead of a presidential election on 27 December. Mr Bozize was recently barred from standing. Rwanda, which has at least 750 Rwandan soldiers and police officers serving in Minusca, said it had sent in more troops in response to the targeting of its peacekeepers by rebels. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said on Monday that Rwandan troops would not be bound by UN rules of engagement. No precise details were given on how many Rwandan troops arrived on Sunday. Separately, Russia began to expand into CAR in 2017, providing weapons, contractors and mercenaries to prop up the beleaguered government in Bangui. In exchange, Russian companies with links to the Kremlin have been awarded rights to mine and export diamonds from the country. Private security guards employed by Russian companies began to train local forces and protect President Faustin-Archange Touadera. It is thought this arrangement gives Moscow considerable influence over Mr Touadera. Moscow’s dive into CAR, one of the most fractured and war-torn nations on earth, took many observers aback and showed how Russia was trying to gain more influence and prestige in Africa. The move also alarmed France, CAR’s former colonial power, which has dominated the country for decades. Last week it emerged that France and Russia were fighting a disinformation war in CAR through online trolls. Trolls from two separate influence operations, including individuals, said to be linked to the French military, posed as locals using fake accounts. Moscow has not confirmed it has sent troops to battle the rebels but the Kremlin has voiced “serious concern” about events in CAR.