Putin Names New Central African Republic Envoy as Ties Deepen

(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to replace his ambassador to the Central African Republic as Russia expands its footprint in the country.

Putin named Vladimir Titorenko, a former Russian envoy to Qatar, to replace Sergei Lobanov, who’s served as ambassador to the African nation since 2011.

The Central African Republic is willing to consider hosting a Russian military base under a cooperation agreement signed in August, the RIA Novosti news service reported last week. Russian experts are already helping to strengthen the country’s armed forces, according to RIA.

Russia’s move into the Central African Republic started in 2017 when it gained exemption from a United Nations-imposed arms embargo to deliver light arms to security forces and send military instructors.

Three Russian journalists were murdered in the Central African Republic in August while investigating the activities of a mercenary group linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a U.S.-sanctioned businessman with ties to Putin. Prigozhin denies connections to the Wagner military group. He was indicted last year by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to meddle in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Russia has been carving out a niche in Africa in part by shoring up strongmen in unstable but potentially rich states. The Kremlin has made the region a focus of its efforts to reassert geopolitical prowess and open new markets for domestic companies hamstrung by Western sanctions. Putin will host more than 50 leaders from the continent for the first Russia-Africa summit this year.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.