France on Friday accused Russia of making efforts amounting to “seizure of power” in Central African Republic (CAR) acknowledging CAR’s CAR’s cooperation with Russian “mercenaries” had prompted Paris to scale down its military support.
France suspended military help and budgetary aid to the CAR this month accusing it of being “complicit” in anti-French disinformation campaign backed by Russia.
The CAR has become a key area in the controversy over the role in Africa of the Wagner mercenary group which is allegedly run by the shadowy businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin.
“In the Central African Republic, there is a form of a seizure of power, and in particular of military power, by Russian mercenaries,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
“We are fighting this and it has led us to take measures to withdraw a certain number of our military personnel.”
French Foreign Minister said Russian personnel were surrounding CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera and were exploiting the wealth of the country.
CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has been chronically unstable since its independence from France.
France launched three-year military operation in 2013 to halt sectarian violence. The operation was launched after the then president Francois Bozize, was ousted by predominantly Muslim rebel groups.
The CAR’s closer relationship with Moscow dates back to 2018, when Russia sent “instructors” to help train its beleaguered armed forces and supplied small arms, gaining exemption from a UN weapons embargo.
Last December, under a bilateral cooperation agreement, the Kremlin sent several hundred personnel to shore up Touadera, who was threatened by a rebel offensive.
Russians also provide the president’s personal protection and his powerful national security advisor, Valery Zakharov, is a Russian.
On May 30, in an interview with France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper, French President Emmanuel Macron said “anti-French talk has provided legitimacy to predatory Russian mercenaries at the apex of the state.
“Touadera… today is a hostage of the Wagner group,” he said.