MOSCOW (AP) – The Russian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed on Friday that it strongly denies claims by UN experts that Russian military instructors were involved in the killing of civilians and looting in the Central African Republic.
In a written response to the PA’s request for comment, the ministry dismissed the accusations as unfounded and argued that they were aimed at “discrediting Russian efforts to stabilize the situation in CAR and help restore peace.”
A UN panel of experts monitoring sanctions against the conflict-torn African nation said in a 40-page report obtained by The Associated Press on Monday that it gathered testimony from a large number of local officials , the government army and internal security forces, and at the community level. sources at several locations around the country. He said they highlighted “excessive use of force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and large-scale looting” by Russian military instructors.
The panel said that many officials and other sources reported that Russian instructors “often led rather than followed” CAR troops as they advanced on various towns and villages in a counteroffensive against the Central African Republic. rebels linked to former president François Bozizé. Bozizé tried to prevent the elections in December and then tried to seize power from President Faustin Archange Touadera.
Asked about the report earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov flatly dismissed the accusations as “yet another lie”.
“Russian military advisers were unable to participate and did not take part in any killings or looting,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters.
In its written comment sent to the PA on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed that Russian military instructors had been in the country at the request of the country’s legitimate government and in accordance with UN rules.
He added that the instructors’ task is to train the Central African armed forces and “provide consultative and humanitarian assistance to the country’s security forces”. He said their mission helped the CAR army defeat militants, reduce CAR military losses and “take more effective measures to protect civilians.”
The ministry noted that “if the innuendo about the instructors’ ‘abuse’ had real motives and the local residents had actively protested, the legitimate CAR authorities would hardly have insisted on the additional presence of Russian specialists. “.
The mineral-rich Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-religious and inter-community fighting since 2013. A peace accord between the government and 14 rebel groups was signed in February 2019, but the violence blamed on Bozizé and his allies threatens to cancel the deal. .
Hostilities erupted after the Constitutional Court rejected Bozizé’s candidacy for president in December and has continued since Touadera won a second term later in the month with 53% of the vote.
Last week, the United States, Britain and France accused Russian personnel in CAR of abusing civilians and obstructing UN peacekeeping – accusations the Russia angrily refuted.
Western powers have linked Russian personnel to the infamous Wagner Group, a private security firm allegedly linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who was indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whose companies would have obtained lucrative mining contracts by CAR.