Russian involvement in the Central African Republic shaken by the war in Ukraine

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During a demonstration in support of Russia, in Bangui, March 5, 2022.

Are the mercenaries of the Russian company Wagner abandoning the Central African Republic for Ukraine, the cradle of their armed interventions, and the Sahel, their new zone of expansion? Since the start of their deployment in Mali, denounced at the end of December 2021 by Westerners, and even more so since Russia entered the war against its neighbor two months later, the intentions of these paramilitaries, described as the occult force of Vladimir Poutine, are the subject of incessant speculation in Bangui.

Read also: Wagner Group deployed in eastern Ukraine, London says

The opacity that surrounds their actions in the Central African Republic, laboratory for four years of Moscow’s return to the continent, prevents any definitive assertion, but all the sources contacted confirm a reduction in staff, suggesting a form of withdrawal or reorganization. “Departures would have started after internal tensions between Russian and Ukrainian mercenaries who no doubt wanted to join their country to go and fight”, indicates a foreign observer, further indicating that “Wagner only has two combat helicopters left” on the spot.

“In recent weeks, we have seen a decrease in Ilyouchine’s rotations [avions servant au transport de troupes et de matériel] on the tarmac at Bangui-M’Poko airport”, notes another source based in the Central African capital. “After having risen to more than 2,000 men, they are now well under 1,500 and have had to abandon several bases inside the country”, complete a third.

Advisor “poisoned”

In the mass of rumors that agitate Bangui, an “information” has not gone unnoticed in recent days. Vitaly Perfilev, adviser to President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and military leader of Wagner in the Central African Republic, assured in an article published on March 19 by the site The Central African Potential having been forced into a medical evacuation after being “poisoned by some people” and “exposed to a toxic substance”.

This former soldier of the French Foreign Legion, who left from the Central African Republic “ten days before the outbreak of war in Ukraine”, according to a French source, did not accuse Paris by name, but, on the spot, the insinuations are largely sufficient to designate a culprit. Whether he left for treatment or to fight in other theaters of war, Vitaly Perfilev has since returned to command of the “instructors” deployed in the Central African Republic, as Moscow and Bangui call them. But with what plans?

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