The Central African Republic says Russia and Rwanda have deployed hundreds of troops in the deeply unstable country amid an alleged coup bid ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.
The government made the announcement on December 21, two days after accusing former President Francois Bozize of plotting a coup after an alliance of rebel groups started marching on the capital, Bangui.
A spokesman for the UN force in the country said the rebel forces have been pushed back and that the situation was “under control.”
Bozize denied he was plotting a coup against President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
Touadera, who came to power in 2016, is seeking reelection in the national polls, due on December 27.
Bozize’s candidacy has been rejected by the country’s highest court.
A government spokesman said that Russia “has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” in the framework of a bilateral cooperation agreement between Moscow and Bangui, according to AFP.
Rwanda has “also sent several hundred men who are on the ground and have started fighting,” he added.
Rwanda said it had deployed a “protection force” to the Central African Republic after its troops in the UN peacekeeping force there were attacked by rebels.
The Kremlin described the crisis as “a cause for serious concern” but did not comment on the alleged deployment of Russian troops.
“We are of course monitoring and analyzing the situation,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Russia has fostered close ties in recent years with the Central African Republic, one of Africa’s poorest and most unstable countries, even though it is rich in resources like diamonds and uranium. Russian military advisers are currently stationed in the country to help train government forces.
As election campaigning heated up, Facebook said last week it had identified rival disinformation campaigns to influence the upcoming vote that were masterminded by individuals with links to the French military and Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who is widely believed to control the Vagner Group, one of the best-known of several Russian private paramilitary companies.
With reporting by AFP and the BBC