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No let up in Russian military presence in Africa despite Wagner fiasco

A file photo of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner Group, after hoisting the Russian flag in Ukraine's Bakhmut

Russia has made it clear that it will not curtail its presence in Africa after the Yevgeny Prigozhin-led Wagner group rebelled last week against the country’s forces, not too far from the embattled Ukrainian border.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com over the past few months, Russia continues to make deep inroads into Africa, including the landlocked Central African Republic (CAR) in the heart of the continent which is poor but extremely rich in natural resources.

The Russian presence in the crisis-ridden country has been gradually increasing since the last batch of French soldiers, stationed in its former colony from the start of the brutal 2013 civil war, left the capital Bangui in December.

There are now almost 2000 Russian citizens in the troubled country – called “military instructors” by Moscow and “mercenaries” from the Wagner Group by the West.

As questions are again being raised on the increasing presence of the Wagner fighters in Africa, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the governments of CAR and Mali had formally requested a private military company after the French and other European nations “abandoned” the two countries and closed their military bases that were designed to reinforce the fight against terrorism.

“In the conditions when they were left face to face with the bandits, Bangui and Bamako turned to Wagner PMC with a request to ensure the safety of their authorities. In addition to relations with this PMC, the governments of the Central African Republic and Mali have official contacts with our leadership,” Lavrov told RT TV in an interview on Monday.

“At their request, several hundred servicemen are working in the CAR as instructors. This work will continue,” he added.

Vladimir Putin
A file photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin with his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (Image courtesy: Twitter/@KremlinRussia_E)

The Russian flag was raised at the former French military base on May 9 with CAR urging Moscow to establish a permanent military base on its territory.

In an interview with leading Russian daily Izvestia, CAR’s ambassador to Moscow Leon Dodonu-Punagaza said that his country now needs a Russian military base “with 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers” as they go full steam ahead on increasing the military-technical cooperation.

“It must go on. However, this causes dissatisfaction in some countries. In recent weeks, when Russia delivered six military aircraft to us, it was the French who began to resent, yelling and yelling. But this is not our business, we are interested in cooperation with Russia,” said the diplomat.

CAR’s appeal came ahead of the second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled to be held in Saint Petersburg starting July 26, an event which will be attended by heads of state and government of the African continent, high-ranking delegations, heads of major sub-regional associations, and business representatives.

The Summit’s first edition, held in Sochi in October 2019, saw the participation of 45 countries from the African continent as well as seven regional organisations, including the African Union and the African Export-Import Bank.

Central Africa
(Map courtesy: Google Maps)

Lavrov also said that Libya has been turned into a “huge black hole” and through it, to the south, into the Sahara-Sahel region of Africa, bandits with smuggled weapons, terrorists of all stripes, extremists, and drug dealers poured in who are still terrorizing the corresponding countries of the African continent.

“The Central African Republic, Mali, and other countries of the Sahara-Sahel region came under direct attack from terrorist groups after all the fighters for democracy and freedom represented by France and other NATO members, wanting to eliminate M Gaddafi (he knew too much about how financed the presidential campaign in the French Republic) unleashed open aggression against Libya,” said Lavrov.

“They violated a UN Security Council resolution that prohibited such actions. They ruined the Libyan state, which the entire international community is still collecting piece by piece and cannot implement it”.

The Russian Foreign Minister insists that he does not see any “panic” or any changes in the relations of African countries with Moscow after the failed Wagner revolt.

“On the contrary, I received several calls of solidarity, including from many of my African friends. We proceed from the premise that no opportunistic moments can be introduced into strategic relations between Russia and our African partners,” he remarked.

It is not just CAR that is witnessing an increasing Russian footprint. From the Horn of Africa to South Africa, Russia is building new partnerships and consolidating old ones by asserting that Africa can be a true and full-fledged center of emerging and multipolar world order.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, Lavrov in May assured his Somalian counterpart Abshir Omar Jama after talks in Moscow that Russia is ready to meet the Somali Army’s requirements in equipment to wipe out terror groups like Al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda.