Lavrov: Mali approached "private Russian military” to fight against terrorism
Mali asked a private Russian military company to help them fight against terrorists and Moscow is not linked to this, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a press conference devoted to the outcome of his visit to New York for the 76th session of the UNGA.
"They turned to a private military company from Russia given that, as far as I understand, France wants to significantly reduce its military contingent, which was there and ought to combat terrorists, who holed up in the area called Kidal. Nothing came out of this, and terrorists are still running things there," Lavrov said
"Since Mali’s authorities estimated that their forces were not enough without external support and since external support is reducing from those who pledged to help eradicate terrorism, they turned to a private Russian military company," Lavrov stated.
Russia’s top diplomat emphasized that the private Russian military company is carrying out its activities in Mali on a legitimate basis because these are the relations between a legitimate government and those who offer respective services.
Mali has approached private Russian military companies following the French government’s “unilateral” decision to “abandon” the West African country.
France is preparing to reduce its military presence in the Sahel region.
Mali Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga accused Paris of abandoning his conflict-ravaged country with the "unilateral" decision to withdraw troops.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Maiga said his government was justified to "seek other partners" to boost security.
“The new situation resulting from the end of Operation Barkhane [France military operation] puts Mali before a fait accompli — abandoning us, mid-flight to a certain extent — and it leads us to explore pathways and means to better ensure our security autonomously, or with other partners,” the Malian premier said.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that he had warned Lavrov and his counterpart from Mali this week in New York that the potential deployment of Russian fighters to Mali would be a "red line" for Brussels.
He also warned that the deployment would have “immediate consequences on our cooperation."
Lavrov said Borrel told him not to “work in Africa at all, because Africa is our place.”
“That's exactly what he said," Lavrov said on Saturday. "To say, 'I was there first, get out,' it's insulting, first of all for the government in Bamako which invited foreign partners.”
Mali has become increasingly engulfed in violence since a Tuareg uprising in 2012 was hijacked by extremist militants.
The French mission began operating in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS) terrorist groups.
Some observers have, however, expressed suspicions about the actual goal sought by Paris inside the former colony, which boasts rich mineral reserves.