Russia will withdraw 300 military instructors from the Central African Republic, after they were deployed in December 2020 ahead of the country’s presidential election.
“The Russians have informed the UN that they will withdraw the troops and helicopters,” a diplomat told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity last week.
News of the withdrawal was passed to the UN Sanctions Committee responsible for monitoring the arms embargo imposed on the CAR, said another diplomat.
In late December it emerged that Russia had sent 300 military instructors to the Central African Republic at the request of the country’s leadership to help counter a surge in rebel violence ahead of elections.
Officials and a security source in the Central African capital Bangui told Reuters last month that Rwanda and Russia had dispatched troops and supplies.
The 300 Russian instructors were to provide training to the national army.
The mineral-rich but deeply impoverished country has struggled to regain stability since 2013 when then-president Francois Bozize was ousted by a rebellion of mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.
Alleged human rights abuses by the Seleka sparked reprisals from the mostly Christian anti-balaka militia, plunging the landlocked country into a spiral of tit-for-tat violence.
Violence continues even after the election, as the CAR’s government has been battling rebel groups seeking to overturn a 27 December vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared victor despite fraud claims.
“What’s clear is the situation has…worsened,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told a UN briefing in Geneva last week.
“What we are hearing from (refugees) is some of them have been separated from loved ones, some have had loved ones killed, that the attacks have intensified,” he added.
When rebels moved on the capital Bangui on 13 January, 10 000 people arrived in a single day in the Democratic Republic of Congo across the Ubangui River, UNHCR said. Others have arrived in Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo.