Russian plane arrives in Central African Republic after Burkina Faso visit

BANGUI (Reuters) - A military plane that took a Russian delegation to Burkina Faso on Thursday landed in Central African Republic (CAR) on Friday, according to flight tracking data and a Reuters reporter.

Mercenaries from Russian private military contractor Wagner Group have operated in CAR since 2018, helping President Faustin Archange Touadera fight rebels and extending Russian influence in the mineral-rich nation. Wagner also owns some concessions there, including a gold mine.

Russia's mounting influence across Africa has worried Western powers, whose own sway appears to have slipped in recent years amid a spate of coups. New military leaders in Burkina Faso and Mali have shunned old alliances with former colonial power France, which had coincided with spikes in violence in both countries.

But the future of Wagner's business and military operations in CAR and elsewhere in Africa is unclear since Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash in Russia last week. Some security analysts say that the Russian state may seek closer oversight of the organisation since his death.

Data from Flightradar showed the plane landing in Bangui from Ouagadougou on Friday. A Reuters reporter saw the plane with a Russian flag on the tarmac, and a security source said that a delegation had arrived.

The exact purpose of the visit was not clear. CAR's government and Russia's defence ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Burkinabe presidency on Thursday said interim President Ibrahim Traore held talks with a Russian delegation led by Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Talks included the possibility of military cooperation.

Before Ouagadougou, the plane was in Mali capital Bamako, where Wagner militants are helping the army fight Islamist militants.

(Reporting by Cooper Inveen and Judicael Yongo; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mark Porter)