Wagner Group, a Kremlin-controlled paramilitary organization, is releasing rebels from jails in the Central African Republic and sending them overseas, including to Ukraine’s Donbas, the Daily Beast reported on Nov. 29, citing two senior military officers in the African country.
Dozens of men held in custody by the country’s army and police for crimes such as rape and murder have been recruited by Wagner’s local wing of militants, commonly known as “Black Russians,” according to the sources.
“They (Wagner) said they needed urgent manpower in Mali and Ukraine,” an officer of the Central African Republic's military told the Daily Beast. “I think more than 20 people we’ve been holding (for very serious crimes) have been released.”
According to another officer in the republic, “nobody can stop them (Wagner Group) because the government has given them so much power to act the way they want.”
The group has also been recruiting Russian inmates since August to fight against Ukraine.
Wagner Group has been operating in the Central African Republic for years.
In 2018 Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko were killed in the Central African Republic after investigating Wagner Group's activities in the country.
According to investigations by two Russian independent media outlets - Dozhd and Dossier - Russian mercenaries may be linked to the murder. Wagner Group denies the accusations.
Wagner Group has been accused of human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings, in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mozambique.
The group is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.