Unacceptable.. Paris warns Moscow against deploying “Wagner” mercenaries in Mali

On Friday, Paris warned Moscow – during a ministerial meeting in the French capital – that the deployment of mercenaries from the private Russian “Wagner” company in the Sahel and Sahara region would be “unacceptable”, according to a statement by the French Foreign Ministry.

During a meeting in Paris with their Russian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu, the French Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Armies, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, expressed “the unacceptable nature of the deployment of Wagner mercenaries in the Sahel and Sahara sector.”

This comes after the ruling military council in Bamako indicated the possibility of using the services of a private Russian company suspected of being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The French Foreign Ministry statement confirmed that the two French ministers “reiterated their firm messages regarding the dangers of regional destabilization and attacks on the interests of France and its partners contributing to the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.”

Relations between France – the former colonial power and historical partner – and Mali deteriorated in recent months after two military coups in Bamako.

In the meantime, last June, Paris began reorganizing its military deployment in the Sahel region, especially by leaving its three bases in northern Mali to focus on the Gao and Menaka regions near the Niger and Burkina Faso borders.

France’s plan provides for reducing its number from five thousand soldiers currently to about 2500-3000 by 2023.

Tensions escalated between Paris and Bamako last September when Mali’s transitional prime minister, Chaugel Maiga, accused France of “abandoning” his country “midway”.

Lavrov: Moscow will continue to provide “equipment, ammunition and weapons” and train the Malian military (Reuters)

Russia’s position

For his part, the Russian Foreign Minister said – the day before yesterday, Thursday, when he received his Malian counterpart Abdullah Diop in Moscow – that “terrorists are feeling increasingly comfortable” in northern Mali, with France reducing the number of its forces.

The Russian and Malian ministers reiterated their countries’ desire to continue the bilateral military partnership, stressing the escalation of the terrorist threat as a result of the partial withdrawal of French forces.

Sergey Lavrov noted that Moscow will continue to provide “equipment, ammunition and weapons” and train Malian military so that Bamako can defend itself “effectively” against the terrorist threat.

Abdullah Diop also denied concluding any contract between Bamako and Russian private military companies, adding that these allegations aim to discredit his country.

His Russian counterpart stressed that Moscow does not interfere in activities and “structures created by Russian citizens conclude their contracts themselves.”

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