Mali Denies Deployment of Mercenaries From Russia’s Wagner Group
(Bloomberg) -- Mali denied any deployment of Russian mercenaries after Western allies said they’d seen members of the Wagner Group in the West African country.
A French-led group of European nations and Canada that’s helped battle Islamist militants in the region said Thursday they had witnessed members of the private Russian military force in Mali.
In a statement late Friday, Mali’s government said that Russian trainers were present “as part of strengthening of the operational capacities of the defense and state security forces.”
“The government asks to be judged on its acts, rather than on rumors, and would like to recall that the Malian state is only engaged in a state-to-state partnership with Russia,” the government said in its statement.
Wagner is a private military company controlled by Yegveny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has previously denied any links to the group.
Wagner was sanctioned last week by the European Union for abuses including torture, and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings.
The alleged deployment comes after French forces this month left a base in Timbuktu as part of a military scaledown, after struggling to fight an Islamist insurgency that started in Mali’s north in 2012 and has later spread to neighboring countries.
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