Why Russian mercenaries seized control of key oilfield in Libya | Counting the Cost
The United States is concerned about the activities of Russian mercenaries in Africa
A candidate for the post of head of the African Command called them part of a campaign to strengthen Russian influence on the continent.
A candidate for the head of the US Africa Command said the presence of Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic is part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to restore Russian influence in sub-Saharan Africa..
“They are a serious concern to me,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend, referring to the private military company Wagner Group, which now operates in the CAR, one of the poorest countries in the world, where conflict between Christians and Muslims has raged since 2012..
Speaking at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Townsend noted that Russia is using mercenaries to “guard the head of state, President Faustin-Archange Touadera, and to train the local military.”.
“Some of this activity may be harmless, some may not be harmless at all,” the general said in response to a question from Senator Gary Peters..
Townsend said paramilitaries, allegedly from the Wagner Group, were used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine to allow Putin to deny Russian military involvement. These formations are called “green men”.
“These are paramilitaries, and, as we saw in Crimea and Ukraine, little green men may not follow the rules of conduct that we expect from a real army,” Townsend said..
Senator Peters asked what risk paramilitaries pose to the United States and its interests in Africa.
“Senator, I have some experience with Russian mercenaries … since Syria,” replied Townsend, who served as commander of Operation Unwavering Determination of the Joint Joint Task Force in Iraq and Syria..
In February 2018, Russian mercenaries, along with the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, participated in an attack on an outpost in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zur, which was controlled by the US military and the Syrian Democratic Forces..
The attack was repelled with the efforts of the Special Operations Command, the Marine Corps artillery and airstrikes..
In his opening remarks during the hearing, Democratic Senator Jack Reed noted that Russia “is developing historic alliances in countries like Libya to secure access to the Mediterranean, and forging new partnerships in countries like the Central African Republic to obtain resources and new allies “.
“Russia has infiltrated the CAR, giving them advice. Apparently, this is an attempt by Putin to regain the former influence that was under the Soviet Union, “- says Reed..
Moscow does not hide its plans for Africa. Since 2014, Russia has signed 19 agreements on military cooperation in sub-Saharan countries, including with Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, according to state media, the Ministry of Defense and the Foreign Ministry..
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