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Russia Signs Military Cooperation Deal With Central African Republic

Members of a Russian close protection unit for Central African Republic President Touadera
Members of a Russian close protection unit for Central African Republic President Touadera

Russia signed a military cooperation agreement with the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) on August 21, less than a month after three prominent Russian journalists were killed in the war-ridden country while investigating Russian mercenaries.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his C.A.R. counterpart, Marie-Noelle Koyara, signed the document on the sidelines of a state arms exhibition outside Moscow, Russian news agencies reported.

The deal "will help strengthen ties in the defense sphere," Shoigu was quoted as saying after the ceremony.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin told Interfax news agency that the pact was a "framework agreement" establishing general avenues of cooperation, including "exchange of delegations, education in Russian military institutes, mutual visits and so forth."

The agreement is set to deepen Moscow's involvement in the impoverished African nation, where the government is seeking to boost its armed forces in the fight against militias that control most of the country.

A UN arms embargo imposed in 2013 was last year lifted exclusively for Moscow.

Russia delivered light arms to C.A.R.'s security forces earlier this year and said it had deployed 175 military and civilian instructors to train them.

Russian forces now also provide security for C.A.R. President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

The deal follows the killing in late July of three Russian journalists who were ambushed in C.A.R. while investigating a shadowy Russian mercenary group called Vagner.

The investigation was funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oil tycoon and leading Kremlin critic.

Both C.A.R. authorities and Moscow have called the killings a robbery, but Khodorkovsky's own inquiry found this claim "does not stand up to scrutiny."

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

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