Russian mercenaries are committing war crimes in one of Africa’s most fragile countries, an explosive report by United Nations investigators has found.
In a report for the U.N. Security Council that was obtained by The New York Times, investigators shed light on abuses by Russian forces deployed to the Central African Republic, the mineral-rich country that has been struggling with civil war for nearly a decade.
In one of the most recent cases, Russian mercenaries, who Moscow insists are deployed as unarmed military advisers, led government forces into battle during an offensive to oust rebels from several towns in January and February, the report found.
During the operation, Russian forces killed civilians, looted homes and shot dead worshipers at a mosque while also taking positions at some of the mines in the region, the report stated.
The report included photographic evidence and confidential accounts by witnesses and local officials.
The Central African Republic turned to Russia in 2017 to wrest control of its diamond trade from the rebels, and to help end a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced over a million people since 2012.
The #Kremlin offered to send unarmed military trainers to help train the Central African Army in a mission blessed by the United Nations, which carved out an exception to the arms embargo on the Central African Republic in place since 2013.
Although #Russia claims it has never had more than 550 trainers in the country, U.N. investigators found the figure was sometimes as high as 2,100 personnel.