According to a new report from Conflict Intelligence Team, the 170 civilian instructors sent by the Russian government to the Central African Republic are likely members of the ‘Wagner’ mercenary group.
These, along with five military personnel and a shipment of weapons (900 Makarov pistols, 5200 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 840 Kalashnikov machine guns, 140 sniper rifles, 270 RPG man-portable anti-tank rocket launchers and 20 man-portable anti-air defense systems, according to the report) are part of an official Russian government training and assistance package to the Central African Republic military. [source]
If it’s confirmed that the instructors sent to the CAR are indeed members of the Wagner group, it represents both a potential escalation in the conflict and has led some analysts to question the underlying motives. The apparent lack of coordination with the existing UN peacekeeping force in the country, MINUSCA, may present problems too. While there’s nothing wrong in principle with training programmes that improve the capabilities of local forces, caution is warranted when such interventions are done with much secrecy and questionable intentions.