The government of Mali denies that Russian mercenaries are active in the country. Earlier this week, the Netherlands, Canada and France, among others, condemned the use of mercenaries. The countries have accused Russia of supporting the controversial mercenary company Wagner, which analysts say has close ties to the Russian military and the Kremlin.
Government spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga denied in a statement that “elements of a private security organization” are present in Mali. According to him, there are “Russian trainers” in the West African country, but this is part of an agreement between Russia and Mali. However, it is not known who the Russian trainers are and what exactly they are doing in Mali.
There have been warnings for months about Wagner’s presence in Mali. French sources report to the AFP news agency that several Wagner officials were seen in the Malian capital Bamako. Russian geologists linked to Wagner have also been spotted in Bamako.
House of Representatives concerned
The Netherlands sent a Hercules transport plane to Mali last month. The aircraft is used for the UN Minusma mission, which aims to improve security and stability in the country. The country is known as a breeding ground for violent extremists. A large parliamentary majority supported the effort, but had concerns about Wagner’s presence.
Outgoing Minister Knapen (Foreign Affairs) told parliament he understood these concerns. “Of course, it cannot be the case that the Wagner group can produce as much instability in Mali for a few blows as we all suffer,” he said.
The Wagner group is accused, among other things, of human rights violations and corruption. Russian President Putin said the group is not a representative of the Russian state, but that private military companies have the right to operate anywhere as long as they do not break Russian law.
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