Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga on Saturday accused France of an "abandonment in flight" with its decision to withdraw from Mali by the Barkhane force, Russia providing explicit support for its desire to "seek de new partners ”, including paramilitary“ Russian private companies ”. It is a question of "filling the vacuum which will not fail to create the closing of certain right-of-ways of Barkhane in the north of Mali", specified the Prime Minister, deploring a "lack of consultation" of Paris and a "unilateral" announcement without tripartite coordination with the UN and the Malian government.
Shortly before, the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, had confirmed that Bamako had approached "Russian private companies" during a press conference at the UN, while assuring that this did not concern the Russian government in any way. .
France and the European Union are concerned about this orientation of Mali towards Russia during exchanges in New York, said Sergey Lavrov.
The French "did not arrive there and the terrorists continue to reign in this region", he added in a pique with regard to Barkhane.
France is not completely leaving Mali
Present, among others, in Libya and the Central African Republic, where it has been accused of abuses since the spring, the Wagner group is suspected, in particular by Paris, of acting on behalf of the Kremlin where the latter does not want to appear officially. The Wagner group provides military equipment maintenance and training services but is also accused of mercenarism and suspected of belonging to a businessman close to the Kremlin, Evguéni Prigojine.
Thirteen European countries, some of them involved in the Takuba coalition of special forces in Mali, deemed unacceptable on Friday any involvement of the Wagner group in this country. France, Germany or Estonia went further, warning that they would reconsider their military presence in Mali if an agreement was reached. In addition to the UN, worried in covert words about Wagner's arrival in Mali, the EU, which trains Malian soldiers through its UETM Mali mission, made up of 700 soldiers from 25 European countries, has warned that an implication of this Russian society would "seriously" affect its relations with Bamako.
France, engaged since January 2013 in the Sahel and which has lost 52 soldiers in the Sahel, including the last Friday, has decided to reorganize its military presence around a tighter device, centered on targeted strikes against jihadist leaders and on the support for local armies.
The French soldiers must therefore leave the bases of Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu, in northern Mali, by December, and the number of French troops deployed in the Sahel is expected to increase from more than 5,000 men currently to 2,500 or 3,000 by 2023. French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, however, reaffirmed Monday in Bamako that France was not leaving Mali.
French soldier killed in action in Mali
Failed "assassination attempt" against the Malian transitional president during the Eid prayer