Putin’s polite green men, the existence of which the Kremlin has denied for six years now, have once again made the spotlight – just like the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the secret “security” services often do – with some “good” deeds in the Central African Republic (CAR). Information that was leaked online has revealed that the Kremlin has been regularly using chemical weapons against local “insurgents”, or “freedom fighters” if you happen to be on the other side of the argument. Regardless of who is fighting what and why, this is another case when Russia uses chemical weapons it shouldn’t even have, suggesting that the Kremlin hasn’t been complying with the obligations it undertook not to produce chemical weapons, not to mention actually using them in combat operations.
The Kremlin has openly stated: “Our private military company mercenaries are heroes in the fight against terrorism just like the Russian Armed Forces’ pilots, infantrymen, special ops troops, GRU and FSB employees, etc. This isn’t something to be ashamed of – it’s something to be proud of.”
This statement came right after the crash of the SA 341 Gazelle helicopter in the CAR belonging to the Wagner cutthroats. The incident took place near a strategically important road that ensures the deliveries of “foodstuffs” to the capital Bangui which has been surrounded by insurgents. These helicopters are used by the Russians to punish the rebels and evacuate the injured mercenaries, meaning that the crashed helicopter was carrying a high-ranking Wagner mercenary to the capital to receive treatment. The Kremlin’s MoFA explained that the helicopter made an emergency landing and only afterwards caught fire due to a fuel leak, adding that the pilot and the on-board “instructor” didn’t make it out alive.
It took several days for information about the crash to be made public, suggesting that the Russians were attempting keep the incident a secret. This has been the case numerous times, as Russia never speaks about the huge losses suffered by Wagner in the CAR, because according to the Kremlin Wagner mercenaries are “almost” not there and therefore can’t take part in any combat operations. Later, it was told that Wagner “instructors” help in preparing FACA – the CAR army – just like they did with the Venezuelan Armed Forces. It’s also not a secret anymore that Wagner mercenaries ensure the personal security of “president” Touadéra, who just happens to be an ardent fan of Putin. The Russian cutthroats also guard gold and diamond mines in the CAR, which is the main reason Prigozhin’s bandits are stationed in this African country.
The Russian regime officially maintains that there are military specialists of the Russian Armed Forces in the CAR, but that they don’t participate in combat operations, hence there can be no talks about any losses of lives – period!
However, journalist and Moscow Duma deputy Andrey Medvedev (Андрей Медведев) has a different opinion: “If it wasn’t for the Wagner Group, the CAR regime would have been gone long ago, as it was Wagner that prepared the CAR army and cleansed 25% of the country’s territory of rebel units. Prior to that, the “bravehearted” FACA soldiers fled the battlefield as fast as they could if they heard that insurgent forces are approaching. Prigozhin’s mercenaries have established a corridor between Bangui and Cameroon – this is the lifeline of president Touadéra, which was created by Wagner mercenaries literally burning and killing anything and anyone in their way. A lot of Wagner mercenaries were needed to clear the cities of Bozoum and Abba.”
According to the Africa Report, in 2018 there were 450 Wagner mercenaries in the Car, but by 2020 this number had grown to more than 1,000. This means that the CAR has the second largest concentration of Prigozhin’s cutthroats, the largest being in Libya. Quite numerous these Russian “instructors”.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that there are tens of times more rebels than Wagner mercenaries, which poses a logical question – how are the Russians able to deal with them, considering that the CAR is a huge country? Let’s also not forget that any information about Wagner losses in the CAR is kept hidden, however if we look at their situation in Syria, we can be certain that hundreds of Russian adventurers have already died in the CAR.
We received an answer to this question on 2 March 2021 when the local newspaper Le Nouveau Centrafrique published evidence that Russian forces, or Prigozhin’s mercenaries to be more precise, consistently employ chemical weapons against insurgents in the CAR. This is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Geneva Protocol.
Russia employs the same dirty tactics in the CAR as it does in Syria, not thinking much about the possibility of one day being held accountable of the war crimes it has committed. Using chemical weapons against farmers in the CAR proves that Wagner is no elite combat unit to be proud of, but instead a mob of bloodthirsty opportunists who are incapable of carrying out effective combat operations – their skills are limited to cutting up hostages and poisoning people from the air.
P.S. Wagner’s motto is “Those who question our peaceful nature will choke on their blood, as our mercy is merciless!” There are also talks that Prigozhin has set his sights on the Baltic states – what could this mean? Only time will tell.
*Augusts Augustiņš, Reserve Sergeant of the Latvian National Guard