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Gems, Warlords and Mercenaries: Russia’s Playbook in Central African Republic

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Gems, Warlords and Mercenaries: Russia’s Playbook in Central African Republic

The next day, the Central African military and its Russian mercenary trainers carried out mass arrests, sweeping dozens of Muslims they presumed to be part of the fighting, according to residents and a UN official.

A 38-year-old shop owner said he was arrested by local soldiers, who deposited him at nearby Russian training facilities. Over the course of four days, he said he was repeatedly tied, beaten and cut by more than a dozen Russians in civilian clothing.

When he did not confess to being a rebel, one of the Russians cut his finger, he said. Nearby he saw another man, with two missing fingers, lying in a pool of blood, he said. The United Nations warned the Central African government of allegations of “detention and torture” made by “individuals of Russian nationality” and shared supporting documents with government officials.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has called the allegations "false".

"Russia provides assistance in strict accordance" with international law to "achieve a lasting solution to the protracted violent conflict," it said in a statement.

Prigozhin's spokesman also denied the accusations. In a statement, he said French forces, which were also accused of violating human rights in the past, paid a militant to lie about being tortured, calling it "a fictional incident that discredits Russian citizens."

For now, the peace agreement that the Russians helped broker seems to be in force. But many victims of atrocities wonder if they will see justice, especially now that warlords are in government and rebel fighters are being incorporated into the military.

"It's as if death becomes commonplace here," said Pasquale Serra, a Bangui artist who organized a ceremony for families to put bricks in a circle, representing their lost loved ones.

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