PARIS (AP) – France on Thursday condemned the decision of the Malian transitional authorities to authorize the deployment of the Wagner group and accused Moscow of financing the use of mercenaries by the private military company in the African country of the Where is.
“We are aware of the involvement of the Russian government in providing material support for the deployment of the Wagner group in Mali,” the French foreign ministry said in an emailed statement. He called on Russia “to return to responsible and constructive behavior” in West Africa.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels have been ousted from power in cities in the north of the country with the help of a French-led military operation, but have regrouped in the desert and began to launch attacks against the Malian army and its allies.
In June, Colonel Assimi Goita was sworn in as president of a Malian transitional government after carrying out his second coup in nine months. Mali faces growing isolation from the international community due to the junta’s seizure of power. Elections are due to take place in February, but there are fears they may be delayed.
“We deeply regret the choice of the Malian transitional authorities to use already scarce public funds to pay foreign mercenaries instead of supporting the Malian armed forces,” the French statement said.
The Wagner Group has been accused by Western governments and United Nations experts of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and involvement in the conflict in Libya. France and Germany have both opposed the presence of its mercenaries in Mali.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the company had a “legitimate” right to be in the West African nation because it had been invited by the transitional government, and insisted that the Russian government is not involved.