Russian Diplomat Evacuated from Central Africa After Assassination Attempt

Russia evacuated from the Central African Republic a diplomat who was severely injured in an assassination attempt that has been interpreted as part of a power struggle between Russia and France over influence in Africa.

Bangui City CentreThe assassination attempt occurred in the Central African capital of Bangui. (Photo: Alllexxxis, Wikimedia, License)Dmitry Syty, who had been running the Russian cultural center in Bangui, suffered life-threatening injuries when he opened a package that exploded in his hands, according to the Russian Embassy. He was transported on Monday to Russia for hospitalization and is still in critical condition.

The embassy alleged in a Facebook post that Syty previously received threats that he and his family would be massacred if Russia continues operating in Central Africa.

In 2020, Syty was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, which designated him as an employee of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a friend of President Vladimir Putin and head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner.

The paramilitary group has been operating in Central Africa since 2017. It has been supporting the government of Faustin-Archange Touadéra in the fight against various rebel groups and has been accused by multiple international bodies of targeting civilians and engaging in rape, robberies and looting. A recent report has alleged that the group profits from the illegal blood diamond trade.

Syty is the founder of Lobaye Invest, a gold and diamond mining company linked to Wagner.

Prigozhin wasted no time to blame France for the attack, causing yet another escalation of tensions between the two countries over their conflicting interests in Africa.

In a statement published by Prigozhin’s company Concord, the Wagner leader claimed that the package contained a note that said: “This is for you from all the French, the Russians will get out of Africa.” He called for declaring France as a state sponsor of terrorism.

But French Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna denied Prigozhin’s accusation as a “good example of Russian propaganda,” which is sometimes characterized by “fanciful imagination.”

The Central African Republic’s government announced it would open a judicial inquiry into the incident, which it said was a part of a destabilizing campaign to undermine the Russian mission in the country.