Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov Heads to Mali
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov is scheduled to arrive in Mali on Monday, making his third trip to Africa in about six months as Russia seeks to expand its influence and maintain foreign support. West towards the invasion of Ukraine.
Mali’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Lavrov’s two-day visit to the West African country was aimed at strengthening defense and security ties. Russia has provided Mali with military aircraft including helicopters, as well as hundreds of military advisers and agents, many of them Western officials. speak of the Wagner mercenary group.
Before arriving in Mali, Mr. Lavrov visited Iraq on Sunday. He is expected to travel next to Mauritania and Sudan, According to Russian news agency Tass.
Russia, Africa’s largest arms dealer, has longstanding relationships with countries on the continent, many of which supported President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The relationship with Mali is just one of a number of military alliances the Kremlin has forged in recent years, a win-win strategy that has made Russia the preferred security partner for many countries. Africa.
Last month, Mr. Lavrov visited South Africa, a few days after the country’s government announced that they will hold joint military exercises with Russia and China in February.
Russia supplied about 45% of major weapons to Africa between 2012 and 2021, according to a report. learn by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In recent years, an increasing number of countries have contracted groups of Russian mercenaries, including Wagner, who are taking part in the war in Ukraine. In most of the African countries where they have deployed, Wagner agents have been accused of extensive abuse, including killing civilianssexual violence and torture.
In Mali, UN experts have said that Wagner mercenaries may have commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with the army of the country. On Sunday, Mali’s government said it was expelling the head of the human rights department of the United Nations peacekeeping operation based in the country.
Since the 2020 military coup in Mali, the military junta in Bamako has moved closer to Russia. At the same time, its relationship has soured with France, the country that ruled its former colony, which ended 9 years military operations in Mali last year when anti-French sentiment grew. The military junta in neighboring Burkina Faso also vowed to strengthen ties with Russia, while French order withdraw troops stationed in the country.
For the Mali government, the visit also demonstrates foreign support amid tensions with Western nations and some of its West African neighbors, over the coup and the use of mercenaries.
Le Pays daily wrote on its front page: “The presence of the Russian foreign minister is an opportunity for the Malian government in need of a powerful ally on the international stage.