Russian private militia founder accuses France of attack in Central African Republic
Dec 16 (Reuters) – The head of a private Russian militia accused France of trying to assassinate the head of a Russian representative office in the Central African Republic, who was seriously injured on Friday after opening a mail bomb.
Dmitry Syty, head of the “Russian House”, was taken to a hospital in the capital Bangui and late in the afternoon his condition was serious but stable, the Russian embassy reported, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the once-secret Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, which has supported the Central African Republic (CAR) military since 2018 but gained more attention with its role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, blamed France for the attack. .
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said the claims were false.
“It is even a good example of Russian propaganda and the fanciful imagination that sometimes characterizes this propaganda,” he told reporters on a trip to Morocco.
France is the former colonial ruler of the Central African Republic, a gold and diamond-rich country of 4.7 million people whose government is battling various rebel insurgencies. Since 2018, the government has been assisted by hundreds of Russian agents, including many from Wagner.
“Before losing consciousness, Dmitry Syty managed to say: ‘I saw a note: This is for you from all the French, Russians will get out of Africa,'” Prigozhin, who bills himself as a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. he said on Telegram.
He didn’t say how he knew what Syty had said.
He said he had asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to open the procedure to declare France a state sponsor of terrorism.
The ministry said the act was aimed at “harming the successful development of friendly relations” between Russia and the Central African Republic. RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Central African Republic source as saying the country would cooperate with Russia in the investigation.
French President Emmanuel Macron has accused Russia of fueling anti-French propaganda in Africa to serve “predatory” ambitions in Africa, where France has suffered military setbacks and a broader loss of influence in recent years.
Prigozhin called Syty “a patriot of Russia and the Central African Republic.”
It was unclear how the men were linked. Syty, also transliterated from Cyrillic as Sytyi or Sytii, was financially sanctioned by the United States Treasury in September 2020 as one of several Russian nationals said to be active in the Central African Republic with links to Prigozhin.
The Wagner founder is also under US sanctions, in part for attempts to interfere in US elections, which he has admitted.
The “Russian House” is not only a cultural center, but also houses Rossotrudnichestvo, a Russian federal agency that says on its social media channels that it deals with “the affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States, compatriots living in abroad and international humanitarian cooperation”.
The European Union has imposed sanctions on Wagner, accusing him of conducting clandestine operations on behalf of the Russian government.
Last year, a United Nations report said that Russian military instructors and local troops in the Central African Republic had attacked civilians with excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and large-scale looting.
Russia has said that Wagner does not represent the state or is paid by it, and has denied that the Russian instructors were involved in murder or robbery.
Prigozhin said that Syty had received a package on November 11 containing a photograph of his son, who lives in France, as well as a note saying that Syty would receive his son’s head next if “the Russians do not leave the African continent.” and open the doors for the French”. He said that Syty had feared that his son’s head was in the new package.
The Russian embassy said it had tightened its own security measures following the attack, TASS reported.
Wagner Group has been deployed in several countries in the region, including CAR and Mali.
Relations between Russia and Western nations are at an all time low due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Reuters Reporting Written by Kevin Liffey Edited by Andrew Osborn, Tomasz Janowski and Frances Kerry
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