Moscow (AFP) - The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, on Friday urged Moscow to declare France a “sponsor of terrorism” after a parcel bomb wounded a Russian official in the Central African Republic.
“I have already requested the Russian foreign ministry to initiate the procedure to declare France a state sponsor of terrorism,” Prigozhin was quoted as saying in a statement released by his company, Concord.
He said that a “thorough investigation” should be conducted into “the terrorist methods of France and its Western allies – the United States and others.”
Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, released a statement after a parcel attack injured the head of a Russian cultural centre, Dmitry Sytyi, in the Central African Republic on Friday. The spokesman of the Russian embassy in Bangui confirmed the attack on Sytyi, saying he was hospitalised.
Map locating Central African Republic's capital Bangui
Prigozhin said it was unclear if Sytyi would make it.
“Russian doctors are doing everything they can in the Bangui hospital to save him,” Prigozhin said.
“Before losing consciousness, Prigozhin claimed that Sytyi saw a note that allegedly said: “This is for you from all the French, the Russians will get out of Africa.”
Prigozhin said that Sytyi first received a parcel from Togo on November 11. The parcel contained a picture of his son residing in France and a note saying that “next time he will receive his son’s head” if the Russians do not leave Africa.
Prigozhin said he opened a new package on Friday because he had thought it would contain his son’s head.
“If Dmitry Sytyi remains alive, he will continue the struggle and see with his own eyes how those who made the attempt on his life will burn in the flames of history,” Prigozhin added.
“If he dies, he will forever remain a symbol of this struggle.”
Over the last few years, friction has grown between France and CAR over a mounting Russian military presence.
In 2018, Moscow sent instructors to the country, and in 2020 followed this with hundreds of paramilitaries to help President Faustin Archange Touadera defeat rebels advancing on the capital.
France, the UN and others say they are mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group, who have been linked with atrocities and looting of resources.
The last French troops deployed in the Central African Republic left in December.
Sanctioned by Washington and Brussels, Prigozhin has emerged as one of Putin’s most loyal lieutenants after Moscow sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.
In November, the European Parliament recognised Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”, accusing its forces of carrying out atrocities during its offensive in Ukraine.