Mali denies deployment of Russian mercenaries from Wagner group

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The Malian government has denied any deployment of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group following accusations by a group of 15 Western powers involved in the fight against jihadists in this Sahel country.

The government “formally denies these baseless allegations” of “an alleged deployment of elements of a private security company in Mali,” he said in a statement released Friday evening.

The Malian government “demands that evidence be brought to it by independent sources” and indicated that “Russian trainers” were in Mali as part of the strengthening of the operational capacities of the national defense and security forces.

Bamako was “only engaged in a state-to-state partnership with the Russian Federation, its historic partner,” said the statement signed by government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga.

A group of 15 Western powers expressed anger on Thursday that Russian mercenaries working for the controversial Wagner group had started to deploy in Mali, accusing Moscow of providing material support to fighters.

Nations involved in the fight against a jihadist insurgency in Mali, including Canada, Germany, France and Britain, have said they “strongly condemn the deployment of mercenary troops on Malian territory.”

“We are aware of the involvement of the government of the Russian Federation in providing material support for the deployment of the Wagner group in Mali and call on Russia to return to responsible and constructive behavior in the region,” they said. declared.

It was one of the first official recognitions by Western capitals that the deployment of combatants had started in Mali after months of warnings to the government in Bamako.

Growing concern The situation in Mali under the leader of the transition, Colonel Assimi Goita, who took office in June after the country’s second coup in less than a year, is of growing concern and in particular the fears that the commitment to hold elections in February may crumble. .

A French government source who asked not to be named said intense activity was noted as the deployment went on.

“We are witnessing repeated air rotations with military transport planes belonging to the Russian army and installations at Bamako airport to allow the arrival of a significant number of mercenaries,” the source said.

Also noted were the frequent visits of Wagner’s cadres to Bamako and the activities of Russian geologists known for their association with Wagner, the source said.

Despite the deployment of Russian mercenaries, the communiqué of the 15 powers indicated that they planned to remain engaged in Mali, affirming “we will not give up our efforts to meet the needs of the Malian population”.

Mali is the epicenter of a jihadist insurgency that began in the north of the country in 2012 and spread three years later to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

France intervened in 2013 and now has around 5,000 troops in the region, but plans to reduce that number to 2,500-3,000 by 2023.

French President Emmanuel Macron was due to express his concerns over Wagner’s deployment during a visit to Mali this week to meet Goita for the first time.

However, his trip was canceled, with Paris blaming the Covid pandemic.

Paris has previously said any deployment of Wagner militias would be incompatible with the presence of French troops.

(AFP)

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