Russian helicopters, weapons and ammunition have arrived in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara informed that the weapons were delivered under the contract from December 2020. Earlier, the Mali authorities invited Russian mercenaries from the “Wagner group” to fight terrorism.
Colonel Camara announced that the Russian Mi-171 and M-17B5 helicopters will be supported by Malian armed forces fighting alongside European forces against jihadists from the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
“Mali bought these helicopters from the Russian Federation, a friendly country with which it has always had very fruitful partnerships,” added Camara.
Tense relations because of the “Wagner group”
As reported by the Reuters agency, Mali’s relations with the country’s leading military partner – France – have not been the best recently. The reason for this is the Mali government’s willingness to hire Russian mercenaries for a private military company, known as the “Wagner group”.
On September 26, the head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed that the Mali government wanted to hire Russians to “fight terrorism”. At the same time, he stated that the authorities in Moscow had nothing to do with this case. He provided this information at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
At the same forum, Prime Minister Mali Choguel Maiga announced that his country felt abandoned by France and was seeking military aid.
Gradual withdrawal of troops
In June, France announced the gradual withdrawal of its troops from Mali, in particular from the northernmost bases (Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit), to re-concentrate its forces around Gao and Menaka, near the “three border zones”, on the borders of Niger and Burkina Faso.
The plan envisages that by 2023 French troops will be reduced from over 5,000 currently to 2,500-3,000.
In response to allegations by the Malian prime minister, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday on RFI radio that “the legitimacy of the current government, resulting from two coups in August 2020 and May 2021, is democratically invalid.”
According to French media, the “Wagner group” is allowing Russia to expand its influence in many African countries. Formally, the company provides military equipment maintenance, security and training services. She is suspected of having a relationship with businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who maintains close relations with the Kremlin.
Main photo source: Reuters