An army spokesperson said that Russian soldiers are training the Malian army in the northern city.
A spokesperson for the Malian army stated that Russian soldiers have been deployed to the northern city of Timbuktu to train the Malian army at a base Evacuated by the French army Last month, insecurity continued in a country where a large territory is not controlled by the government.
The Malian government stated at the end of last year that “Russian trainers” had arrived in the country, but Bamako and Moscow have so far provided little details about the deployment, including how many soldiers or specific tasks the Russian army will involve.
On December 23, a group of Western countries led by former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to help repel the advance armed groups that threatened to seize the entire Mali. harsh criticism They were talking about Russian mercenaries deployed to work for the disputed Wagner group.
The Malian government denied this claim, saying that the Russian army in the country is part of a bilateral agreement.
“We have New purchases of aircraft and equipment From them [the Russians]”The Malian military spokesman told Reuters on Thursday. “The cost of training us on the spot is much less than where we go…what’s the harm? “
He did not say how many Russians were sent to Timbuktu.
Residents told Reuters that Russian men in uniforms were seen driving in the city, but they could not say how many people there were.
The Russian army’s arrival in Mali was carried out after deployment to several other African hot spots. Analysts said part of the reason was Moscow’s attempt to restore influence on the African continent after a long absence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Mali has been plagued by conflicts that began in 2012 with a separatist movement in the north of the country, but later evolved into numerous armed groups vying for control of the central and northern regions.
Fighting has spread to neighboring countries including Burkina Faso and Niger, and the deteriorating security situation in the region has triggered a serious humanitarian crisis.
The French army withdrew from Timbuktu, a city they helped retake from Al-Qaeda militants in 2013, as part of a major drawdown that previously had 5,000 task forces in the Sahel region of West Africa. The French government stated that it will refocus its military efforts on quelling the rebels and strengthening and training the local army.
This decision was made under the conditions of political instability in Mali. Colonel Asimi Goita staged two coups in less than a year and was sworn in as the country’s interim president.The military-led government initially promised to hold elections by the end of February 2022, but now Proposed transition period Lasts from six months to five years.
Reports of Wagner’s deployment in recent months have further exacerbated the already tense relationship between the French government and the coup makers. While tensions have increased, anti-French sentiment has become widespread among Malians, who accused Paris of failing to contain the escalating violence and pursuing hidden agendas.
The French military has closed its bases in Kidal and further north of Tesalit, but still maintains a presence in a turbulent border area near Gao, which has been concentrated in this area in recent years.