The Russian mercenaries of the infamous Wagner security company have begun to grow in Mali, with the help of Moscow, according to 15 Western countries involved in operations against jihadists in that country.
“We are aware of the involvement of the Government of the Russian Federation in providing material support for the development of the Wagner Company in Mali and we call on Russia to return to a responsible and constructive stance in the region,” they said in a statement.
The 15 countries (France, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania and Sweden) do not, however, go so far as to threaten Bamako with their withdrawal. Mali. France has so far argued that the presence of Wagner mercenaries in Mali is “incompatible” with the presence of French troops in the area.
According to a French government source, “there are repeated air travels today, with military convoys belonging to the Russian army, there are facilities at Bamako airport to receive a significant number of mercenaries, frequent visits by Wagner executives to Bamako and geological activities in Bamako. for their close relationship with Wagner. “
The deployment of mercenaries “will worsen the security situation in West Africa (…), threaten the Mali peace and reconciliation agreement and hamper the international community’s efforts to protect civilians and support the Mali armed forces,” the 15 said in a statement. countries in the communiqué addressed to the Mali junta, which also called for “elections as soon as possible”.
The presidents of France and Russia, Emanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin, spoke by telephone on Tuesday to discuss Moscow’s relations with the West and the situation in Mali.
France, which has been present in the Sahel for nine years, decided in June to reorganize its military forces, leaving three bases in Mali (Tesalit, Kidal and Tobucco) to focus around Gao and Menaka, near the border with Niger and Burkina Faso. This plan also includes the reduction of French forces in the Sahel, from 5,000 men to 2,500-3,000 by 2023.