MOSCOW (AP) — Russia said Tuesday it has sent 300 military instructors to the Central African Republic to help train its army that’s facing an offensive by rebel groups ahead of elections.
The mineral-rich nation has seen a spike of violence in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections set for Sunday.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the instructors were sent at the request of the Central African Republic’s government.
The ministry noted in a statement that recent events have led to the “degradation of the security situation in the country.” It blamed the opposition led by former President Francois Bozize for destabilizing the country by rounding up rebel forces for a march on the capital, Bangui.
Rwanda, which has peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic, said it sent soldiers there over the weekend.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has urged “all constructive forces of the Central African Republic to engage in a dialogue to solve the disputed issues regarding the preparation for the elections.”
The Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-religious and inter-communal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in Bangui. Mostly Christian militias fought back, resulting in thousands of deaths and displacements.
The country saw a period of relative peace in late 2015 and 2016, but violence intensified and spread afterward, and since the signing of the peace agreement in February 2019 intermittent serious incidents of violence and human rights violations have continued.