Radio France Internationale (RFI) published an investigation into the crimes of Russian "instructors" in the Central African Republic (CAR), which is based on the stories of dozens of witnesses and reports of human rights organizations.
The main source of information in the article under the headline "In the Central African Republic, victims of Russian atrocities broke the law of silence" is the report of a special working group of the UN. It reports that between January and mid-April this year alone, the Russian military carried out 26 extrajudicial executions, five gang rapes and 27 illegal arrests with torture during interrogations.
According to one of the RFI diplomatic sources, the Russian mercenaries in the CAR capital Bangui are "the elephant in the room." "We all know about them, but pretend they're not there," he explains. The Russian ambassador to the republic says there are 535 Russian employees of a private military company in the country, who, according to him, work as instructors and do not take part in hostilities. However, international observers claim that the number of Russian mercenaries in CAR reaches two thousand.
Among the crimes detailed in the publication were the shooting in early January of a food truck in which three civilians were killed, the execution in mid-February of three civilians at a mosque, and the gang rape of a 24-year-old local woman on 25 February.
The locals are hesitant to publicly condemn Russian mercenaries, which are supported by the official authorities of the CAR. "It's an atmosphere of terror," says an interlocutor from the international observation group. "Many people contact us to tell us what's going on but refuse to file complaints. There were reports of death threats to those who took risks."
The Russian Embassy in CAR has not yet commented on the material published by RFI but has previously issued a statement on the report of the UN working group, calling the information contained in it "speculation".
On July 30, 2018, Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko were killed in the CAR. They were working on an investigation into the activities of mercenaries from Wagner's "private military company," a Russian unofficial military unit that is linked to Putin's friend, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin.