Is Mali’s government negotiating with Russian mercenaries?

NAfter rumors from French circles that the Russian mercenary troop Wagner was involved in the military junta in Mali, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU), with the end of military support from the Bundeswehr, both in the European training mission (EUTM) as well as the use within the framework of the United Nations (Minusma).

On Wednesday, Kramp-Karrenbauer announced on Twitter: If Mali’s cooperation with Russian mercenary groups is confirmed, this calls into question the basis of the Bundeswehr’s mandate for Minusma and EUTM. “If Mali’s government makes such agreements with Russia, it contradicts everything that Germany, France, the EU and the United Nations have been doing in Mali for the last 8 years.” Around 1220 soldiers of the Bundeswehr are currently deployed within the framework of the two Mali mandates. The mandates are limited to the end of May 2022.

According to the Kremlin, “no Russian soldiers” in Mali

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned on Wednesday that a contract with the Russian mercenary group was “absolutely incompatible with our presence”. According to information in Paris, negotiations are currently being conducted between the Malian head of state Assimi Goïta and representatives of the Wagner mercenary group. After the second military coup in Mali in May of this year, France announced a gradual withdrawal of troops. Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister said that Wagner mercenaries had excelled in the Central African Republic through riots, robberies and violations of all kinds. “In the Central African Republic this has led to a deterioration in the security situation,” warned Le Drian. Defense Minister Florence Parly also called the possibility of a security agreement between the paramilitary group and the military junta in Bamako “extremely worrying”.

Dmitrij Peskow, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said of the allegations from Paris only that “there are no Russian soldiers” in Mali. Peskov did not comment on mercenaries from the private Russian military company Wagner. Many former Russian soldiers are said to be fighting in its ranks. The mercenaries, who are associated with Putin’s close ties to the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, have already been sighted in many countries, for example in Ukraine, Syria and on the African continent in Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic. At the end of June, Sadio Camara, the Malian Defense Minister, spoke to the Russian Chief of Staff, Valery Gerasimov, among others. When asked whether Camara had asked for Russian military aid at the time, Peskov said that Russia was in contact with many countries, including on the African continent.

Russian engagement in Africa is not new. Mercenary troops with up to 1,000 men are said to have already been deployed in the Central African Republic, Senegal and Libya. According to the assessment of security experts, Russia is trying to strengthen its former influence on the continent again, and any backward movement by the West will be exploited.

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