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As France Withdraws, Kremlin Offers Support to Mali and Sahel Region to Fight Terrorism

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov promised the Kremlin’s help for states in West Africa’s Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea which are facing a ruthless jihadist insurgency. “The fight against terrorism is of course an issue for the other countries in the region,” Lavrov said during a visit to Mali, which Russia is already helping militarily.

“We are going to provide our assistance to them to overcome these difficulties. This concerns Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad and the Sahel region generally and even the coastal states on the Gulf of Guinea,” he said. Lavrov made the remarks at a press conference during a visit to Bamako that the Russian envoy described as a “historic” first.

Since seizing power in 2020, Mali’s ruling junta has brought in Russian planes, helicopters and paramilitaries to strengthen its fight against jihadist militants. The closer ties with the Kremlin have coincided with the departure of France, the country’s former colony and traditional ally, which says the Russian operatives are Wagner mercenaries.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN have implicated Wagner and the Malian army in an alleged massacre at Moura in central Mali last March in which several hundred people were rounded up and killed.

The landlocked state is the epicentre of a jihadist insurgency that began in northern Mali in 2012 and spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015. Thousands of civilians have died across the three countries, and millions have fled their homes.

Discontent within the military in Mali and Burkina Faso has spurred two coups in both countries.

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