Russian President Vladimir Putin with the president of Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadera. Image from President of Russia for media use. Russia, 2018.

Why is Russia Suddenly So Interested in the Central African Republic?

Dionne Searcey travelled to the Central African Republic to report on a story that has previously lead to the murder of foreign journalists.

In July 2018 three Russian journalists were killed in the Central African Republic while investigating Russia’s growing presence in the country. Their murder last year, however, has only increased international attention on Russia’s shadowy aims in the Central African Republic. This includes both a scramble for the country’s natural resources and a soft power campaign intended to increase Russia’s reach in Africa.

Dionne Searcey is a reporter for the New York Times.  Her story published in late September exposed evidence of Russian involvement in illicit diamond mining. More broadly, though, her story explains and identifies the contours of Russia’s growing political interests in the Central African Republic.

And at the center of this story is a man named Yevgeny Prighozin. He is a Russian oligarch and close ally of Vladimir Putin, and has been indicted in the United States for his role in interfering in the 2016 Presidential election. He is also the owner of a mining company that has extracted millions of dollars worth of diamonds from the Central African Republic. This was done through legal mining operations  — but also likely through illegal mines operated by armed rebel groups.

We kick off discussing Yevgeny Prighozin before having a broader discussion of Russian involvement in the Central African Republic and what this signals about Russian-African relations more broadly.

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