Russian and Rwandan troops in Central African Republic to help stop alleged coup, government says
The motorcade of the President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, at a rally last week in Bangui accompanied by the Presidential Guard, Russian mercenaries and Rwandan UN peacekeepers - Alexis Huguet / AFP
According to the government, hundreds of Russian and Rwandan troops have entered the Central African Republic (Central African Republic) to stop an alleged coup attempt.
The troops have already started fighting rebel groups, the government said.
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On Saturday, the Central African Republic government accused former President Francois Bozize's armed forces of attempting a coup after three powerful rebel groups banded together and advanced in the capital, Bangui.
"Russia has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons," said a government spokesman in the context of a bilateral cooperation agreement.
He added: "The Rwandans have also sent several hundred men who are there and have started fighting."
The rebels are reportedly being held back from the capital. On Sunday the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, Minusca, said the situation was "under control".
The news comes ahead of a December 27 presidential election. Mr Bozize was recently banned from standing.
Rwanda, which serves at least 750 Rwandan soldiers and police in Minusca, said it has dispatched more troops to respond to rebel targeting its peacekeeping forces.
Separately, Russia began expanding into the Central African Republic in 2017, providing arms, contractors, and mercenaries to support the beleaguered Bangui government.
In return, Russian companies with ties to the Kremlin have been granted the rights to mine and export diamonds from the country.
Private security forces from Russian companies began to train local forces and protect President Faustin-Archange Touadera. It is believed that this arrangement will give Moscow significant leverage over Mr. Touadera.
Moscow's immersion in the Central African Republic, one of the world's most shattered and war-torn nations, surprised many observers and showed how Russia sought to gain more influence and prestige in Africa.
The move also alarmed France, the former colonial power of the Central African Republic that has ruled the country for decades.
Last week it emerged that France and Russia were waging a war of disinformation in the Central African Republic through online trolls. Trolls from two different influence operations, including individuals allegedly linked to the French military, pose as locals with fake accounts.
Moscow has not confirmed that it has sent troops to fight the rebels, but the Kremlin has expressed "serious concern" about the events in the Central African Republic.
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