The Kremlin has rejected claims that Russian military instructors in the Central African Republic have been involved in killing civilians and looting homes.
During a heated discussion at the United Nations Security Council last week, the United States, France and the United Kingdom accused Russian military contractors of committing human rights abuses and obstructing UN peacekeeping in the conflict-stricken country.
On Sunday, The New York Times cited a report to the Security Council that accused the Russians of killing civilians and looting homes during fighting earlier this year.
Asked about the report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov categorically denied the assertion.
“Russian military advisers couldn’t take part and didn’t take part in any killings or lootings,” Peskov said on Monday in a conference call with reporters. “This is yet another lie.”
The mineral-rich Central African Republic has faced deadly fighting since 2013.
A peace deal between the government and 14 rebel groups was signed in February 2019, but large-scale violence has continued.
The country’s Russia-backed president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, won a second term in December’s election but he has continued to face resistance from rebel forces linked to former President Francois Bozize.
Russia has deployed military advisers in CAR, training its military at the invitation of the government.
The Western powers linked the Russian personnel in CAR to the notorious Wagner Group, a private security company allegedly tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who has been indicted in the US on charges of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Companies linked to Prigozhin have also reportedly secured lucrative mining contracts in CAR. In 2018, three Russian journalists were killed in CAR while investigating Wagner’s activities there and no suspects have been found.
Prigozhin earned the nickname “Putin’s chef” for hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign guests at his restaurant and catering important Kremlin events.