Correspondent in Moscow
Although with the disapproval of the West, the authorities of Mali have officially requested the group of Russian mercenaries Wagner that they send their units to the African country to confront Islamic fundamentalism. This is stated by the Russian agencies, which cite Malian military sources with the clarification that the paramilitaries that Russia will send will not participate directly in the armed confrontations but will limit themselves to training the Malian Army.
The British channel BBC maintains that the Wagner group has already begun the recruitment of troops for this new operation on African soil and is located in the southern Russian region of Krasnodar the center where they are being mobilized and prepared. But Paris it has warned the Bamako government that if it hires the Russian mercenaries, Mali will isolate itself internationally.
The Prime Minister of Mali, Choguel Kokalla Maiga, on Saturday accused France before the UN General Assembly of leaving his country, devastated by conflict and terrorism, with his decision to reduce troops. According to Maiga, Paris “has acted unilaterally and forces us to look for other partners.”
In his speech, also on Saturday, before the United Nations General Assembly, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei LavrovHe said that “the Malian authorities have not been able to cope with the terrorist threat and have had to turn to a private Russian military company.”
In his opinion, the Bamako Executive “is legitimate and has legal reasons to use such services”, but, he stressed, “the Russian Government has nothing to do with it.” “As I understand it, France wants to significantly reduce its military contingent, which was supposed to be there to fight the terrorists … but it has failed in that task,” Lavrov said.
However, the French Foreign Ministry denied on Monday that France had abandoned Mali and that the troop withdrawal was a unilateral decision. Your spokesperson, Anne-Claire Legendre, stated that “the transformation of our military presence in the Sahel is not an exit from Mali or a unilateral decision, it is wrong to affirm otherwise (…) the new mechanism was the subject of consultations with the Sahelo-Saharan and Malian authorities.” He maintains that “France remains committed to the fight against terrorism in Mali.”
Operation against the local branch of Al Qaida
In January 2013, France, at the request of the Malian authorities, launched a military operation in the north of the country against the local branch of Al Qaida. Then, in July 2014, despite the end of the intervention, French troops had to continue fighting the insurgents in other regions of the country. Last June, however, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, announced the cessation of the anti-jihadist operation in Barkhane and the reduction of the military contingent in Mali.
Last week hundreds of people demonstrated in bamako demanding the withdrawal of French troops and seal an alliance with Russia. They also gave their support to the current authorities, provisionally in power, after the August 2020 coup against the then president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Assimi Goita is now the acting president.
The Wagner Group, owned by the Russian businessman, Evgueni Prigozhin, next to the president Vladimir Putin, would have, according to numerous sources, mercenaries deployed in Syria, Venezuela, eastern Ukraine, Libya and the Central African Republic. A UN report attributes atrocities to them such as torture and very summary executions.