Russia – The Russian troops recently settled in Timbuktu, Mali. The place was abandoned by French troops last month. A Malian military spokesman said on Thursday that the Russian troops were sent to train local forces in Timbuktu.
The Malian government said that “Russian instructors” arrived in the country in December. However, no information was available about their deployment. The arrival of the Russians in December led to a problem with some Western countries.
The western countries, led by France, a former colonial power in Mali, slammed the deployment of Russian mercenaries working for the controversial Wagner Group in conflict-hit Mali. Wagner’s mercenaries were accused of committing human rights abuses in several countries. The Wagner Group has caused controversy through its involvement in Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic. They reportedly also caused conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Earlier, the Wagner Group, owned by a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been accused of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic by the UN (United Nations) experts. The western countries earlier also slammed the Wagner Group for creating conflict in Libya.
The Pamako government has denied the presence of mercenaries. The government claimed that the Russian military is in Mali under a bilateral agreement. The spokesperson of Russia said, “We (the Russians) buy new planes and equipment from them. There is much less training on the spot than travelling there. What’s wrong with that?”
Russian troops in Mali
Reportedly, several analysts see the arrival of Russian troops in Mali as an attempt by Moscow to regain influence on the continent long after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. French troops have been present in Mali since 2013. At that time, they intervened to force out armed fighters from power in the country’s north. France reportedly helped rescue Timbuktu from Al Qaeda-linked militants in 2013. The withdrawal of France from Mali is part of a significant reduction in the previous 5,000-strong military force in the Sahel region to fight jihadist groups.