The U.S. says it is alarmed by news of a potential deployment of Russia-backed Wagner Group forces in Mali, which according to the U.S. are known for their destabilizing activities and human rights abuses.
This engagement is part of Russia’s renewed efforts to form alliances after its long post-Soviet absence. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia retreated inwards and the relationships it built with newly independent African states faltered. But Africa is back on Russia’s agenda, and it is engaging differently, a report from Chatham House says.
Yevgeniy Prigozhin is sanctioned by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union in connection with his dealings with the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense and his efforts to subvert U.S. democratic processes. 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). For example, in CAR, Wagner elements are said to have carried out extrajudicial killings of members of predominantly Muslim Peuhl communities.
The U.S. is urgeing the transitional government not to divert scarce budgetary resources away from the Malian Armed Forces’ fight against terrorism. It also laments that Mali’s transitional government has refused to accept more than 2,000 additional MINUSMA military and police peacekeepers – again, at no cost to Mali – that would have contributed to civilian protection.