Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group owned by a key Putin ally are stoking influence in resource-rich Central African Republic
Staff, 2023-01-10 13:03:12,
In a quiet air traffic control tower in central Africa, two men keep watch over the Russian aircraft moving goods and personnel into the country.
The Russian man in military fatigues sits beside the Central African controller as they peer outside at the airport’s only runway.
They have worked together for eight months, but barely know each other.
Neither discuss their families or sport, or their weekends. When they do speak, it’s only in English.
The Russian arrived at Bangui M’Poko International Airport last April, after local controllers had difficulty communicating with Russian pilots, some of whom appeared to pay no heed to tower instructions.
“We just tell him to tell the aircraft [in Russian] to not take off now because we have a commercial flight coming. We manage like this,” an air traffic controller says.
The unorthodox arrangement is a symbol of Moscow’s growing foothold in the region.
Deep wounds left by a period of French colonial rule and years of bloodshed, political turmoil and civil war has left the Central African Republic reliant on foreign support.
While a thousands-strong force of UN peacekeepers and French troops have maintained a fragile status quo, an unknown number of Russian mercenaries now hold the country’s balance of power.
The Russian mercenaries patrolling the streets of Bangui
Since being elected president of the Central African Republic in 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera has increasingly turned away from reliance on the West and toward…
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