United Nations (United States) (AFP)
Six hundred Russian soldiers requested by the Central African Republic this month are “unarmed instructors,” Moscow’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations said on Friday.
“They are not armed because they are not supposed to be. They are instructors, ”Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters, adding that he did not know if the soldiers had already arrived.
Moscow has maintained a contingent of soldiers since 2018 to train the Central African army.
Before the last contingent, Moscow had recognized the presence in CAR of only 535 Russian instructors, under contract with the Central African Ministry of Defense.
The CAR notified the UN Security Council on May 4 of its intention to welcome 600 new instructors. He is required to give 20 days’ notice under the country’s latest arms embargo.
Diplomats say France, Estonia, Ireland, Britain and the United States have indefinitely suspended the sanctions committee’s response in order to obtain more information.
But that doesn’t stop Russia from deploying the troops after the notice period expired on Monday, diplomats said.
“They can take care of some weaponry when they educate people, but they’re not supposed to fight,” Polyanskiy said.
Many witnesses and NGOs claim that the instructors are in fact paramilitaries from the Wagner group, a private shadow military company that actively participates in the fight against Central African rebels, alongside Rwandan special forces and peacekeepers from the UN.
The French daily Le Monde said this week that Russia and the CAR had ceased all military coordination with the peacekeepers since February.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN Under-Secretary for Peace Operations, said UN peacekeepers had encountered difficulties with the CAR army and its partners, without giving further information.
“It is essential to have some consultation, coordination,” he said, adding that he would be visiting CAR next week.
The nation of 4.7 million people has been in the throes of civil war since a coalition of armed groups overthrew the government in 2013.
© 2021 AFP