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But the high-octane, big-budget film making its debut at the Barthelemi Boganda Stadium in Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui was not the latest episode in the recent star-studded action movie franchise.

Yet the film has more than just loud blasts, big cannons and beautiful shots of the African jungle. It neatly describes how various aspects of Russian influence in the African continent – some oddly – come together.

CAR has been one of the main theaters for Wagner’s Fortune Soldiers. It is rich in natural resources, and is politically unstable. Insurgent groups have been struggling with President Faustin Archange-Toudera and his government for control since the elections held last December.
Central African Army (FACA) soldiers march with their Russian instructors to Berengo, which was once the palace of former CAR president Jean-Bedel Bokassa.  Recently these recruits have been fighting to repel insurgent attacks across the country.

Rose color illustration

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“Tourist” opens with flashbacks of Russian mercenaries coming under heavy attack from a group of Central African rebels.

The rebels are depicted as a rag-tag band of bandits who get out of the bush on a motorcycle to shoot down the local population and loot police stations. In contrast, the Russians are shown as defenders of the nation; Outnumbered but fighting valiantly against all odds.

After the opening of a classic war film, the rebels appear victorious: the film’s protagonist, known only by his call sign, “Tourist”, is seen lying on the ground, bleeding from his mouth, He appears to have been seriously injured.

The action then returns for a few days, giving the audience a rose-colored depiction of the Russians’ work in the CAR, repeating rebel attacks, with their allies in the local army, and attacking Bangui and ex-President François Boziz in office. Foils their plan to return. .

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CNN team was tracked by Russian operatives in Central African Republic, Bellingcat investigation revealsCNN team was tracked by Russian operatives in Central African Republic, Bellingcat investigation reveals

Russian characters take sarcasm at other Western powers throughout the CAR, with one of the mercenaries saying: “Americans say they fight for democracy; Russians fight for justice.”

Russian “trainers” are considered in the CAR for training purposes rather than in front-line combat, although they do battle far more than training.

This reflects the real-world situation: The international community knows that mercenaries will be doing some training, but they are also heavily involved in combat operations.

An action-packed war film, “Tourist” has managed to transform itself from fiction to a true story-based film.

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We see soldiers arrive at the Russian Air Force Illushin II-76 at M’Poko Airport in Bangui and are given to understand that “trainers” have been rotated in and out of the country on several occasions .
The posters in Bangui are reminiscent of old Soviet propaganda.  The posters read: "Central African Republic goes hand in hand with Russia"  And "Talk a little, do a lot of work."The posters in Bangui are reminiscent of old Soviet propaganda.  The posters read: "Central African Republic goes hand in hand with Russia"  And "Talk a little, do a lot of work."

Russia’s air force has been distributing arms consignments and groups of “trainers” since January 2018 – with the permission of the United Nations, who have lifted the arms embargo on the country.

Recently, a spokesman for the CAR government confirmed that another 300 Russian military instructors were now in the country in their “bilateral capacity”.

And then there is a tall, muscle-bound, shaved-headed instructor, similar to Wagner’s founder, Dimitri Utkin, and a close associate of Prigozhin. Utkin is subject to US sanctions to aid pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Prigozhin has denied any connection with Wagner, but he too has been approved by the US for funding an Internet research agency interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Russian mercenaries fought shady battles in gas-rich MozambiqueRussian mercenaries fought shady battles in gas-rich Mozambique
The identity of the financial backers behind the “tourists” is just as opaque as those behind the Wagoner Group. The website for the film provides no details as to who funded it, only stating that the “Tourist Film Group” owns the copyright.
But the film’s opening credits include a reference to a studio called “Pariet Media”. According to Fontaka.ru, a St. Petersburg-based investigative newspaper, Prigozhin’s wife, Lyubov Prigozhina, was listed as the owner of a company called “Paritet”.

Russian independent news outlets – based in Latvia and recently branded “foreign agents” by the Kremlin – spoke to three people associated with the film, who said that Prigozhin had financed the film, with one of the interviewees saying it was Was the attempt. “To whiten Wagner’s image.”

Another clue indicating Prigozhin’s involvement with the “tourist” is the presence of Seth Verdu. Wiredu was nominated by CNN in 2020 in an investigation into a Russian troll factory operating from Accra, Ghana.

In “Tourist”, Wiredu, who previously lived in Russia and speaks Russian, plays the role of a priest who wants to bring former President Bozies back to power, according to several of his employees.

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Wiredu’s presence in a film about Wagner involving Prigozhin cannot be a coincidence. In fact, it appears to be clearly trolling – a middle finger on the west side.

Left: Seth Wiredu, seen here in a frame from a hidden camera in Accra, Ghana, in March 2020.  Right: Seth Viredu in the film 'Tourist'.Left: Seth Wiredu, seen here in a frame from a hidden camera in Accra, Ghana, in March 2020.  Right: Seth Viredu in the film 'Tourist'.

Glorification of ‘military trainers’

Off-screen, the relationship between the Kremlin, Prigozhin, Wagner, and “tourists” deepens.

That Friday evening in Bangui, Maxim Sugale stood on a small platform under a large curtain. A noted political strategist with links to the Kremlin, Shugale works for a Russian organization called the Foundation for National Values ​​Protection (FZNC).

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Mercenaries chasing and killingMercenaries chasing and killing
Shugale and his interpreter Sameer Suifan were arrested in 2019 for political interference in Libya and meeting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the country’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi. They were released in December 2020; Shortly afterwards a film – “Shugale” – was made about his time in a Libyan prison, followed by “Shugale 2”.
Both films appear on the FZNC website; His artwork, trailer and even the title appear similar to “Tourist”.
According to a report by Pregozin-linked media outlet RIA FAN, Shugale told the crowd in Bungui: “I wanted to tell the people of CAR that there is no religious enmity in the world, there are bandits who use people’s faith to their religion Let’s justify. Crime … the movie ‘Tourist’ will help your country to come together, unite and not fight against each other. ”

The “tourist” appears to be – at least in part – a much-needed effort to improve the perception of Wagner mercenaries in the CAR.

A Russian instructor trains FACA recruits in Berengo.A Russian instructor trains FACA recruits in Berengo.
a Recent United Nations Report Said Russian mercenaries had violated human rights in government forces as well as the CAR, as they drove out rebel groups – the national security adviser of the CAR, Valery Zakharov, has denied.
But the film also has a dual purpose: to glorify the work of these “military instructors” for domestic Russian audiences. The film made its debut on Russian TV on 19 May, five days after the Bangui premiere.
“The Tourist” may have immortalized Wagner’s work forever, but that title is not fooling anyone – the film has as much to do with tourism as a nerve agent attack at Salisbury Cathedral The visit of two Russians accused of.

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