The country denies any deployment of mercenaries from the paramilitary group Wagner

Mali has denied any deployment of mercenaries from the sulphurous Russian paramilitary group Wagner, announced by some fifteen Western powers involved in the anti-jihadist fight in this Sahelian country.

The government of Mali « brings a formal denial to these baseless allegations » on « an alleged deployment of elements of a private security company in Mali, » he said in a statement released Friday evening.

Mali « demands » proof

About fifteen Western powers announced in a press release on Thursday the deployment in Mali, with the help of Moscow, of the Wagner group, denouncing the involvement of these mercenaries who are already operating in Ukraine, Syria, Libya and in several countries of ‘Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Malian government « demands that it be brought to it by independent sources » of the presence of this group, affirms the statement signed by the government spokesperson, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, also Minister of Territorial Administration.

He « wishes to point out that, like the European training mission (EUTM), Russian trainers are present in Mali as part of the strengthening of the operational capacities of the National Defense and Security Forces ». Bamako asks « to be judged on acts rather than on rumors and wishes to recall that the Malian state is only engaged in a state-to-state partnership with the Russian Federation, its historical partner », further affirms the Malian government. communicated.

Western countries press release

Thursday, several Western countries including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, had « strongly condemned the deployment of mercenaries on Malian territory », and denounced « the involvement of the government of the Russian Federation in the provision of material support for the deployment of the Wagner group in Mali ”.

« We call on Russia to behave in a responsible and constructive manner in the region », insisted the press release also signed by Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania and Sweden. These countries are engaged alongside France in the new European grouping of special forces Takuba, intended to accompany Malian soldiers in combat.

Red line

The deployment of Russian mercenaries has so far been a red line for Paris. The 15 signatory countries of the communiqué, however, reaffirmed their « determination to continue (their) action to protect civilians, to support the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and to help establish long-term stability ».

« Today, we can see on the spot repeated air rotations with military transport planes belonging to the Russian army, installations at Bamako airport allowing the reception of a significant number of mercenaries, frequent visits of executives. from Wagner to Bamako and the activities of Russian geologists known for their proximity to Wagner, ”a French government source indicated.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already warned Mali against financial consequences and destabilization of the country, already plagued by violence, if the government recruited the Wagner group. The United States, followed by the European Union on Monday, imposed sanctions against the group suspected of being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Violence for nine years

Mali has been the scene since 2012 of operations by jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, as well as violence perpetrated by “self-defense militias” and bandits. The regular forces are themselves accused of abuses.

The violence that started in the north in 2012 spread to the center, then to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. They killed thousands of civilians and soldiers as well as hundreds of thousands of displaced people, despite the deployment of UN, French and African forces. The seizure of power in Bamako by the military following a putsch in 2020 has not stopped the spiral of violence.

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