MOSCOW, March 25 (RIA Novosti) – French military may evacuate Russian nationals if necessary from the Central African Republic (CAR) after rebel forces seized the republic’s capital of Bangui on Sunday, Russia’s Kommersant daily reported.
Fighters of the Seleka rebel coalition advanced into Bangui on Saturday and captured the presidential palace on Sunday. President Francois Bozize fled the country and, according to Reuters reports, he could be now in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Oleg Petrenko, the counselor of the Russian Embassy in the Central African Republic, told the daily that there are currently 20 Russian nationals at the diplomatic mission in Bangui.
“There is an agreement between Moscow and France to evacuate Russians from the CAR in case of a critical situation,” the daily reported.
France sent an additional military contingent of some 300 troops to the CAR on Sunday to provide security for some 1,150 French citizens residing in the republic as well as to other foreign nationals and to organize their evacuation if necessary.
In January, President Bozize stated his willingness to negotiate with the Seleka rebel alliance over forming a coalition government – but asked them to allow him to serve out the rest of his term.
Seleka accused the president of rolling-back on a 2007 peace deal under which rebels who laid down their arms were to be paid and given jobs, and have voiced their doubts that he would step down at the end of his term in 2016.
The Central African Republic is rich in natural resources such as timber, gold, diamonds and uranium, but 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to EU data.