French FM accuses Russian mercenaries of “robbing” Mali | News


Le Drian claims that the Russian Wagner company exploits the country’s resources in exchange for protection from the military government.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused Russian private military contractor Wagner Group of plundering Mali’s resources amid heightened tensions between Paris and the country’s military government in recent weeks, including over the fate of European forces deployed in the region to fight armed groups.

Last week, the US military estimated that hundreds of Wagner personnel were in Sahel state, but the country’s ruling military denied this.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since the Malian army led by Colonel Assimi Goita staged a coup in August 2020.

Former colonial power France has thousands of troops deployed in the Sahel state, which is struggling to contain a rebellion that first emerged in 2012.

The Wagner mercenaries are “former Russian soldiers, armed by Russia and accompanied by Russian logistics”, Le Drian said.

“They are already using the country’s resources in exchange for the protection of the junta. They are despoiling Mali,” he told the Journal du Dimanche in remarks published on Sunday.

The United Nations, France and local groups claim that the Wagner group also has a presence in the Central African Republic.

“Wagner is using the weakness of certain states to establish itself… to strengthen Russia’s influence in Africa,” added Le Drian, while specifying that she was not seeking to replace the Europeans in the region.

France’s foreign minister did not say what would happen to a European force deployed in the region to fight armed groups after Mali’s leaders successfully expelled a contingent of Danish troops this week.

“We are talking to our partners to see what kind of response” is needed, Le Drian said.

“Our fight against terrorism must continue – but probably under different conditions,” he added.

When asked if that meant a withdrawal from Mali, he replied, “I didn’t say that.”

On Friday, Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the country’s military-dominated government was “not ruling anything out” regarding its relationship with France.


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