Wagner group linked to Russia accused of atrocities in Central Africa

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A Connected in Russian mercenary group was accused of having carried out beatings, torture and executions in the Central African Republic (CAR), a human rights group said Tuesday.

The Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary group with known links to the Kremlin, has been operating in the Central African nation since 2018 after authorities signed an agreement with the Central African Republic to train its forces.

This undated photograph distributed by the French army shows three Russian mercenaries, on the right, in northern Mali. Russia has engaged in under-the-radar military operations in at least half a dozen African countries over the past five years using a dark mercenary force that analysts say is loyal to President Vladimir Putin. Analysts say the Wagner mercenary group is also key to Putin's ambitions to reset Russian influence on a global scale.

This undated photograph distributed by the French army shows three Russian mercenaries, on the right, in northern Mali. Russia has engaged in under-the-radar military operations in at least half a dozen African countries over the past five years using a dark mercenary force that analysts say is loyal to President Vladimir Putin. Analysts say the Wagner mercenary group is also key to Putin’s ambitions to reset Russian influence on a global scale.
(French Army via AP)

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CAR has been involved in a civil war for nearly a decade and in 2018 sought the support of the Wagner group to counter rebel and militia groups.

Tuesday, Human Rights Watch claimed The Russian security firm acted with impunity and said: “There is compelling evidence that the forces identified by Russia supporting the government of the Central African Republic have committed serious abuses.”

“The inability of the government of the Central African Republic and its partners to forcefully denounce these abuses and to identify and prosecute those responsible will most likely only fuel further crimes in Africa and beyond,” said Ida Sawyer, director of crisis and conflict. by Human Rights Watch. .

The UN announced last month that it would launch an investigation into a series of events in which nearly a dozen people were killed in an area in the northeast of the Central African Republic, with some reports suggesting the involvement of the forces. Russian.

Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 40 people, including 10 victims and 15 witnesses, between 2019 and 2021 who claimed the atrocities were committed by “white-skinned men who spoke Russian.”

This undated photograph distributed by the French army shows Russian mercenaries boarding a helicopter in northern Mali.

This undated photograph distributed by the French army shows Russian mercenaries boarding a helicopter in northern Mali.
(French Army via AP)

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Russia has denied that the Wagner group – which has also reportedly been deployed in eastern Ukraine where some of the most brutal fighting has taken place – is associated with the Kremlin.

But the group is believed to be backed by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin who is suspected to have close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And in 2020, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Prigozhin by prosecuting “entities and individuals working on Prigozhin’s behalf to advance Russia’s influence in the Central African Republic.”

Human Rights Watch has reported several reports of arbitrary detentions, beatings, torture and killings by these Russian troops in the Central African Republic and called on the nation’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) and International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate these atrocities. to be prosecuted.

This image from a video shows soldiers burying bodies near a military base in northern Mali. The French military says it has videos of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near a military base in northern Mali.
(French Army via AP)

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CAR training with the Russian paramilitary group was supposed to end in March 2018. But the European Union, the United Nations and the United States warned that the Wagner group remained within the Central African nation.

One November 2021 relationship from the EU also found that “most” of the CAR army units “operated underneath [the] direct command or supervision [of] mercenaries of the Wagner Group. “