Mali is becoming a Russian stronghold in the Sahel. The operation managed by the Wagner company continues to bring new combat vehicles into the country, which make the coup colonels feel powerful. In recent days, there has been a parade to show the leaders of the government and President Goïta, in camouflage, the reinforcements from Moscow.
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by our correspondent Claudio Tito
Under the escort of Russian commandos, the dignitaries reviewed the Sukhoi 25 fighter-bombers, aircraft with armored cabin and shielded engines, particularly suitable for fighting the guerrilla warfare. The planes, from Russian surpluses, were painted in a desert color. The exact number is not clear: according to some sources it would be four. Together with them landed the Aero L39 jets, two-seater trainers produced in Prague until the 1990s but armed with rockets and machine guns.
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The supply of helicopters is more consistent: in addition to old transport models, the MI-24s and the newer MI-35s were filmed: they are “flying gunboats” equipped with fast-firing machine guns, rockets and small surface-to-air missiles. All pilots are mercenaries hired by Wagner, not only Russians: there are also Serbs, Ukrainians, Syrians and Libyans. The society of private warriors is counting on these squadrons to defeat the jihadist insurgency that is spreading throughout Mali. A difficult mission: three weeks ago, terrorists attacked an army base on the outskirts of the capital, using suicide bombers and drones.
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The advisers who have come from Moscow have so far not achieved great results, on the other hand they have managed to persuade the coup government to break off relations with Mali’s historical allies. First there was the clash with France, engaged since 2013 with the Serval operation and then with the Barkhane operation which had prevented the Islamist militias from conquering the entire country and rebuilt the institutions, including the army. Two coups in two years brought hostile officials and politicians to the government in Paris, who called Wagner as a replacement for French troops.
The Paris withdrawal was completed in March, then the expulsion of the Danish military was the pretext for ousting the European task force that was supposed to replace them. Finally, they placed 49 Ivorian blue helmets from Operation Minusma under arrest, forcing the entire contingent to suspend activity. Now the only contact is the Russians. They increase their ranks despite the war in Ukraine. And who fight the guerrillas with the brutal methods tested in Syria: they destroy entire villages, without distinguishing between innocent civilians and terrorists. They arm tribal groups and bomb them from the sky, only to eliminate all testimony. Reports of crimes and abuses in recent months have multiplied: in the town of Moura alone, 300 people would have been killed at the end of March.