Reuters news agency quoted its sources as saying that Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group “private military company” would enter Mali under an agreement with the local government.
At least 1,000 Wagner Group mercenaries could be hired to work in Mali, says Reuters. The Russian contractors will train soldiers and officers of the local armed forces, as well as provide protection for high-ranking officials.
Also according to Reuters, French officials are already trying to crumb the deal by diplomatic means.
The French counter-terrorism operation has been underway in Mali for nearly a decade. It is aimed at stopping the al-Qaeda* and Islamic State* terrorist groups (both organisations are banned in Russia). According to Reuters, “France is worried the arrival of Russian mercenaries would undermine its decade-old counter-terrorism operation.” In fact, the Malian government has turned to private military contractors for help precisely because they have seen no actual result of the French operation. There is still terrorist threat ten years later, and the French military has compromised itself with poor performance in its formal task. Emmanuel Macron announced the end of the operation in June 2021.
Wagner Group became famous during the major battles of the war in Syria. According to a number of media reports, it was the Wagner fighters who conducted several major operations of that war, including the breakthrough to the city of Deir ez-Zor, surrounded by terrorists and the liberation of ancient Palmyra. In addition, Wagner Group showed great performance during the clashes in Mozambique, where they inflicted serious damage on the Islamists. Besides, Russian instructors played a key role in training and reorganizing the army and police of the Central African Republic, after which the CAR troops defeated the terrorists in this civil war-torn country. The track record of this kind obviously prompted Bamako's desire to turn to a Russian organisation.
According to some sources, a number of countries are eager to become involved in Mali affairs. For example, Turkey has been extremely active in Africa. France is also not likely to give up its influence in its former colony despite the large-scale anti-French protests in Mali. A loss of influence in Mali after the coup in Guinea where the pro-French President Alpha Condé was overthrown by the military with popular support would be a serious blow to France’s prestige.
* The Islamic State (ISIS) is recognised as a terrorist organisation whose activities are officially banned in Russia by the Russian Supreme Court's ruling of 29 December 2014.
The Caucasus Emirate is an international organisation officially banned in Russia.
The Turkistan Islamic Party (formerly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement) is an international organisation officially banned in Russia.
** The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognised Al-Qaeda as an extremist organisation banned on Russian territory on 13.11.2008; ruling No. 08-1956, entered into force 27.11.2008