Russia’s Lavrov vows aid for W Africa fight against armed groups

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has pledged assistance to West African states battling armed groups as Moscow seeks to expand its influence on a continent in a diplomatic tug-of-war between global powers.

Lavrov on Tuesday hailed the alliance that has been forged between Moscow and Bamako in fighting armed groups on his first visit to Mali, which Russia’s top diplomat described as “historic”.

 “The fight against terrorism is, of course, an issue for the other countries in the region,” Lavrov told a news conference in the capital, Bamako.

“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.

Mali had long relied on former colonial power, France, for military assistance in fighting the armed uprising.

Since seizing power in 2020, Mali’s military government has brought in Russian planes, helicopters and paramilitaries to strengthen its fight against armed rebels.

France says the Russian operatives are Wagner mercenaries – a private military group that Moscow has deployed in Syria and Ukraine, experts say.

The landlocked state is the epicentre of a conflict 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.

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