Wagner troops awarded medals in African country

Wagner fighters have gathered for a military medal ceremony in the Central African Republic where the mercenary group is known to have a strong presence.

Pictures taken at the event in the city of Bombari have been shared on a Wagner-linked Russian Telegram channel.

Wagner fighters can be pinned with the CAR’s highest military honour, the Cross for Military Valor.

The ceremony takes place despite reports that the Russian PMC is rolling back operations in Africa following Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short-lived military rebellion at the end of June.

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Sky News reports that last week both senior defence sources in the CAR and a Russian embassy official confirmed a withdrawal of Wagner forces with some 400 fighters said to have flown out of the country.

Those that left were reported to be a contingent of Wagner operatives who refused to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defence, a requirement of the negotiated deal between Prigozhin and the Kremlin which ended the June mutiny.

Photos of the ceremony in Bombari were shared on the GreyZone Telegram channel along with the post: “Despite rumors about the withdrawal from distant frontiers or the re-signing of contracts by the fighters of the Wagner Group, in the city of Bombari, in the Central African Republic, awards were given to ‘musicians’ for their contribution to the fight against terrorism, as well as maintaining peace and security in the country.

“The government of the country presented a number of fighters to the highest military award of the Central African Republic – the Cross for Military Valor.”

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Wagner has maintained a heavy presence in the Central African Republic with the nation said to be home to thousands of the group’s fighters.

The groups have lucrative security contracts with the Central African Republic’s Ministry of Defence to aid state forces in keeping rebel groups away from the major infrastructure and trade routes.

Wagner rescued scores of Chinese gold miners two weeks ago after the group was reportedly approached for help by the Chinese government.

The gold mine in Bombari had reportedly become a target for one of the many armed rebel groups in the CAR.

Wagner reportedly evacuated a large group of Chinese nationals with pictures released showing the miners later posing with Wagner fighters.

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Though it is unclear whether the recent medal ceremony is related to the Bombari operation.

The timing of the gold mine rescue, coming days after Wagner shook the Kremlin with an abortive march on Moscow, has led some Russian watchers to question whether the move was an attempt by the group to seize a PR victory.

Meanwhile, speculation continues over the fate of Wagner leader Prigozhin whose whereabouts since the event on June 29 is unclear.

The Wagner boss was originally believed to have gone into exile in Belarus and is reported to have held a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin some five days after the mutiny fizzled out.

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