UN report accuses Russian operatives of abuses in the Central African Republic

 UN report accuses Russian operatives of abuses in the Central African Republic
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Investigators from the United Nations found that Russian mercenaries killed civilians, looted homes and fatally shot worshippers in mosques earlier this year during military operations in the Central African Republic, The New York Times reports.

According to documents obtained by the Times, the offenses committed by the Russian operatives “included cases of excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and looting on a large scale, including of humanitarian organizations."

Russian mercenaries drove out rebels from several towns in January and February after the Central African Republic — a poor, mineral-rich country — asked Russia to help it take back its diamond trade from rebels.

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In their efforts to retake territories taken over by rebels, the Russian forces allegedly shot civilians and looted homes of money, motorbikes and other valuables. Russia has denied these accusations.

The Russian government agreed to send unarmed military trainers to the country in a move approved by the UN, but the trainers turned out to be armed mercenaries, the Times reports. The military effort has quickly become a campaign to strike diamond deals to benefit the Kremlin.

"Russian instructors have established a presence in the country’s key mining centers,” the UN report said, according to the Times.

Though Russia claimed that there were never more than 550 trainers in the country, the UN's investigation found that there were as much as 2,100.

Russian forces have quickly become entrenched in the Central African government, the Times notes, with Russian bodyguards protecting President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and a former Russian spy acting as his security adviser.

The Times notes that Russian forces have become more involved in African conflicts over the past few years, appearing in countries like Chad, Libya, Mozambique and South Sudan.