By Antoine Rolland
BANGUI, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Rwanda and Russia have sent troops and supplies to the Central African Republic to help counter a surge in violence by rebel groups ahead of Sunday’s election, officials and a security source in Bangui said.
Security forces and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling rebels who have occupied towns and roads outside the capital.
The authorities accuse former president Francois Bozize, whose presidential candidacy was rejected by the courts, of plotting a coup with several militant groups. A spokesman for Bozize’s KNK party has denied the accusations.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who is seeking re-election, came to office in 2016 after Bozize was overthrown in a rebellion three years earlier. He has struggled to restore stability and swathes of the country remain beyond government control.
The CAR government said in a statement late on Sunday that Rwanda and Russia “took steps to provide effective support which arrived on Central African territory today”.
The Rwandan Defence Ministry confirmed in a statement that it had sent troops.
Russia, which has previously sent arms and military contractors to CAR as it seeks to increase its influence in Africa, has not commented on reports in the media it had sent in troops and military aid.
But a security source in Bangui said over the past few days, Russian planes have landed carrying military personnel and supplies.
On Monday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Russia considered the situation in CAR “a matter of serious concern”. Touadera has friendly ties with Moscow and has a Russian national as a security adviser.
U.N. peacekeeping mission MINUSCA said on Monday that there was a “slight lull” near the town of Yaloke following an attack over the weekend by armed groups. A security and humanitarian source also said the town of Mbaiki, about 100 km (60 miles) from Bangui was calmer following recent clashes.
The United States, France and Russia have also accused Bozize of seeking to disrupt the election.
Facebook said last week rival French and Russian disinformation campaigns had sought to deceive Internet users ahead of the presidential and parliamentary vote.
(Reporting by Antoine Rolland Additional reporting by Dmitry Antonov in Moscow Writing by Alessandra Prentice, Editing by Aaron Ross and Alison Williams)
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