The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army has denied the presence of fighters from Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group in the country, in response to claims by a rebel group.
The army has been struggling to contain the M23 rebel group that has in recent months captured swathes of territory in the eastern part of the country.
Reports have suggested the presence of Russian mercenaries in North Kivu province on government’s invitation to help deal with the rebel group.
“It is true, Wagner Group is here. We have evidence that we will show in due time,” M23 spokesperson Willy Ngoma told the BBC on Wednesday.
He added that they had fought a joint team of the Congolese army and the mercenaries last week in Tongo and Nyamilima fronts in Rutshuru area.
But the army spokesperson Major General Sylvain Ekenge has denied the claims.
“The Wagner group is not operating in DR Congo,” he told the BBC.
Russian mercenaries have a presence in DR Congo’s northern neighbour, Central African Republic, where in 2021 they played a role in fighting rebels.
Last year in October, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi told a meeting in London that he would not bring in Russian mercenaries to deal with the rebel activity in his country.
“I know it’s fashionable now . . .[but] no, we don’t need to use mercenaries,” he was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.
The unrest in eastern DR Congo has displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes.