Leader of Russia’s Wagner helped boot UN peacekeepers from Mali, US says

The United States said on Friday it was concerned about the Russian Wagner Group’s destabilizing activities in Africa and accused the leader of the mercenary force of helping to engineer the departure of U.N. peacekeepers from Mali.

The U.S. has information indicating Mali’s transition government has paid more than $200 million to Wagner since late 2021, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

Kirby said Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin helped engineer the departure of the United Nations peacekeeping force, known as MINUSMA, “to further Wagner’s interests.”

“We know that senior Malian officials worked directly with Prigozhin employees to inform the U.N. secretary-general that Mali had revoked consent for the MINUSMA mission,” Kirby said.

The U.N. Security Council voted on Friday to end the mission. Earlier this month, Mali asked the U.N. peacekeeping force to leave “without delay”, citing a “crisis of confidence” between Malian authorities and the decade-long U.N. mission.

Two days before, the country’s interim president, Colonel Assimi Goita, said on Twitter he was very satisfied with a phone call he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he described as “direct and sincere”.

Kirby said that despite the money paid by Mali to the Wagner Group, which a week ago launched an aborted armed mutiny in Russia, the security situation in the country has not improved.

He said Washington had seen no indication that Wagner was decreasing its intent to exploit African countries, “despite the events of last weekend.”

Both Russia and Mali have said Russian fighters there are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops fight a decade-long insurgency by Islamist militants.

Mali’s leaders seized power in a 2021 coup and brought in Wagner after asking a French military mission to leave.

Source: Reuters