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African former rebels recruited as mercenaries by the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group have been abandoned in Ukraine, a report says

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/3/2022 ashoaib@insider.com (Alia Shoaib)
The close security guards of the Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) armed group stand in Bokolobo, near Bambari on March 16, 2019. - FLORENT VERGNES/AFP via Getty Images) © FLORENT VERGNES/AFP via Getty Images) The close security guards of the Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) armed group stand in Bokolobo, near Bambari on March 16, 2019. - FLORENT VERGNES/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Kremlin-linked Wagner Group recruited mercenaries from the Central African Republic to fight in Ukraine.
  • Sources told The Daily Beast that the African fighters were left without money, food, or ammunition.
  • The abandoned fighters are allegedly desperate and have to "steal from civilians" to survive.

Former rebels from the Central African Republic who were recruited by Wagner Group to fight in Ukraine have been left without money, food, or ammunition, according to a report by The Daily Beast.

Around 100 former rebels from the Central African Republic, also known as CAR, were recruited by the shadowy Kremlin-linked private military contractor and sent to the front lines in the Donbas region of Ukraine eight months ago alongside Russian soldiers. They since have now lost contact with their Russian counterparts, two sources told the outlet.

One source – a CAR former rebel fighter working for the Wagner Group but was not sent to Ukraine – told The Daily Beast that his colleagues in Ukraine said they had been left to fight on their own and are having to "steal from civilians" to survive.

"They haven't been paid for months and they can't even feed themselves," the source said. 

A second source, also from a CAR Wagner Group recruit, told the outlet that his fellow soldiers-for-hire in Ukraine said they'd been abandoned by their Russian commanders and were fearful for their lives.

"They've told me that they don't even have ammunition to fight," he said. "Some of them have not been seen by their colleagues for months."

The Daily Beast said it did not name its sources in order to protect them from possible retribution.

The Wagner Group, which was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been recruiting fighters from unconventional sources, including convicts from Russian jails, Syrian fighters, and former rebels in the Central African Republic who fought for the Union for Peace (UPC) militant group.

The Russian mercenary group has been accused of being responsible for deadly attacks and rights violations across the globe. It is active in the Central African Republic, where it works with the country's military and helps to combat rebel groups. 

Hundreds of rebels from the UPC surrendered last December after the CAR government and Wagner group promised incentives and further military work if they switched sides, The Daily Beast said.

In February, more than 200 of the former UPC rebels were sent by the Wanger Group for military training in Moscow. Half of the group, who are often referred to as "Black Russians" in the CAR, were deployed to Ukraine, while half returned to the Central African Republic, according to The Daily Beast.

Those who returned to the Central African Republic have also had trouble working with the Wagner Group. Sources told The Daily Beast that fighters have not been receiving payments from either the government or from Wagner, despite being promised monthly wages.

The former rebels speaking to The Daily Beast also said that dozens of their colleagues have mysteriously disappeared in the Central African Republic.

"For two months now, up to 50 of our colleagues have mysteriously disappeared," one source said. "No one knows where they are, and the Russians aren't answering questions regarding their whereabouts."

He said that there are suspicions that they may have been sent to Ukraine but that no one is sure where they are.

"There are also a few people who are suspecting that they may have been sent on a dangerous mission at home or abroad and have been killed in the process," he said. "No one may ever know the truth because these Russians do everything in secret."

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