US 'alarmed' over potential Russian Wagner Group mercenary deployment in Mali

State Department says deal reportedly costs Mali $10m a month

US State Department says the Wagner deal diverts budget resources from the Malian Armed Forces’ fight against terrorism. AFP
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The US government on Wednesday warned against the potential deployment of Russia-backed Wagner Group mercenary forces in Mali, claiming it would have a destabilising effect on the African country.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US was “alarmed” over the Wagner deal brokered with Mali’s new military leaders, saying it is costly and will not bring peace.

“We understand that the reported deal — costing $10 million per month — diverts money that could be used to support the Malian Armed Forces and public services,” Mr Price said.

Assimi Goita overthrew Mali's president and prime minister in May and put in place a military-led government.

Russia has maintained close ties with the military and has been viewed as a replacement for French troops that are withdrawing from Mali eight years after intervening to help the government counter extremists.

The State Department said Russia’s Wagner mercenaries “will not bring peace to Mali, but rather will destabilise the country further".

“The Wagner Group, which is also sanctioned by the United States, has been implicated in abuses and actions that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Central African Republic (CAR),” the statement read.

It accused the Kremlin-linked group of carrying out extrajudicial killings of members of predominantly Muslim Peuhl communities.

The EU on Monday sanctioned the Wagner group and 11 of its associates for its activities in Ukraine, Libya, the Central African Republic and Syria.

Foreign ministers from bloc member countries enacted asset freezes, travel bans and financial restrictions on the private military company itself as well as eight individuals and three entities connected to it.

The US urged the transitional government in Mali “not to divert scarce budgetary resources away from the Malian Armed Forces’ fight against terrorism”.

It also called on the military-led government to move rapidly to return to democratic governance, which it said will allow the resumption of US security assistance to Mali.

Updated: December 15, 2021, 4:03 PM