Days after Bamako denied the presence of Russian mercenaries in the country, a senior Russian diplomat said on Monday that the nation will continue to provide Mali with military assistance.
Mali’s government on Saturday said the Russians in the country are “trainers not mercenaries” and they are in the country as part of a bilateral agreement between Mali and Russia.
France, Canada and 13 European nations last week condemned Moscow for facilitating the alleged deployment of private military contractors from the Russia-backed Wagner Group to Mali, where the government is battling an extremist insurgency.
A cargo plane delivered four helicopters, weapons and ammunition from Russia to Mali in October, part of what the Malian government said was a commercial deal with the Russian state.
On Monday, Pyotr Ilichev, director of the Russian foreign ministry’s department for international organisations pointed out in an interview that Bamako had the right to cooperate with any partners it wanted in its fight with militants.
According to Ilichev, “We will continue to defend Bamako’s legitimate interests at the UN (United Nations) and also provide active assistance to our Malian partners in the military and military-technical spheres through state channels,”
President Vladimir Putin has said the Wagner Group do not represent the Russian state, but that private military contractors have the right to work anywhere in the world so long as they do not break Russian law.