Russia's Lavrov Visits Mali in Sign of Deepening Ties

    Russia's Lavrov Visits Mali in Sign of Deepening Ties
    Last updated Feb 07, 2023
    Image credit: Russian Foreign Ministry/AFP [via France24]


    • On his third trip to Africa since July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived Tuesday in Mali for talks with military ruler Assimi Goïta and his counterpart Abdoulaye Diop amid the West African country's decades-long battle against an Islamist insurgency.[1]
    • Speaking in Mali's capital Bamako, Lavrov stated that Moscow remains committed to assisting the Malian government — which seized power in a 2021 military coup —to bolster military capabilities.[2]
    • The Russian chief diplomat will also reportedly hold bilateral talks on bolstering ties in trade, mining, and infrastructure, as well as on Russian grain, fertilizer, and oil shipments to Mali.[3]
    • Moscow has in the past already supplied Mali with military equipment, including aircraft and helicopters, as well as hundreds of Russian soldiers the Malian government claims are military advisers. However, Western sources say these forces belong to the Russian private military contractor Wagner.[4]
    • Lavrov's trip to Mali comes as Bamako on Sunday expelled the human rights chief of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), ordering him to leave the country by Tuesday for alleged "destabilizing and subversive" activities.[5]
    • This follows last week's UN request for an independent investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by Malian government troops and suspected Russian Wagner mercenaries.[6]


    Anti-Russia narrative

    Lavrov's visit to Mali is yet another sign of Russia's soft power approach to portraying itself as an alternative to the West when Moscow is primarily interested in exploiting mineral resources and arms sales. While Moscow stokes anti-French sentiment to achieve its objective, the criminal Wagner mercenaries do the dirty work on the ground, further destabilizing the entire region. The time has come for Washington to label Wagner a "terrorist organization" and for the West to take more decisive action against Russia in the Sahel as part of the "great power competition."

    Pro-Russia narrative

    France and the entire West are crying foul, accusing Moscow of fomenting anti-Western sentiments in order to expand in Mali and the Sahel. In truth, they themselves are responsible for the anti-colonial sentiment that is spreading on the ground and from which Moscow benefits. Yes, the Wagner soldiers are in Mali, but the rift between Paris and Bamako does not stem from Moscow. The loss of trust everywhere in Africa originates from endless Western hypocrisy and exploitation of Africa's natural wealth. It's perfectly legitimate for Bamako to seek other partners to finally overcome poverty and violence.

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