By Judicael Yongo
BANGUI (Reuters) – The departure of hundreds of Russian Wagner troops from Central African Republic is part of a rotation of forces rather a withdrawal, a spokesperson for the CAR presidency said on Saturday.
The short-lived mutiny led by Wagner mercenary founder Yevgeny Prigozhin in Russia in June has raised questions about the outlook for his group’s sprawling network of military and commercial operations across CAR and other parts of Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Reports of the recent departure of large numbers of Wagner personnel from CAR by plane have fuelled speculation in recent days that the group is pulling out of the country, where they have been helping the government to quell several rebel insurgencies since 2018.
But CAR presidential spokesperson Albert Yaloke Mokpem said “it is not a definitive departure but a rotation.”
“Some have left, and others will come,” he said at a press conference in the capital Bangui.
Several hundred Wagner troops have recently left the country, a military source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity and without giving further details.
It is not known how many remain. Some 1,900 Russian mercenaries, including from Wagner, were believed to be operating there.
Any restructuring of Wagner operations in CAR could have substantial commercial ramifications.
Analysts have said Wagner received logging rights and control of a gold mine in CAR. In June the United States put sanctions on a CAR company as one of several including one from the UAE that it said was involved in financing Wagner through illicit gold dealings.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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