Zelensky jets to UK in first visit since Russian invasion
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Emmanuel Macron has been warned Russia’s influence on African states may help China gain trade partnerships at the expense of France. The French President’s decision to withdraw troops from Mali opened a window of opportunities for Russian President Vladimir Putin to spread anti-Western propaganda in the African continent, which in turn will aid China to gain more trading powers, according to Dr Stepan Stepanenko.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pledged military support to Mali during his first visit to the West African nation on Tuesday and dismissed criticism of Moscow’s growing influence on the continent.
He told Express.co.uk: “Russian moves to arm Mali are undoubtedly an affront to the attempts and prospects of peaceful developments for the African state. With Lovrov’s comment on the “racist essence of [Josep Borrell’s] vision of the world”, it is evident that Russia is not only looking to gain friends in Africa but to discredit the West.
“Considering the historic French involvement in the region, and the recent withdrawal, it may be that the Russian moves may now completely slide the country from Western influence.
“While the UN mission in Mali remains, and Russia is trying to stir anti-Western sentiment, in fact it is China that may have the most to gain. With trade between the two countries almost double that with France, and growing, it has a platform to grow its relations.
“A platform that Russia lacks. Considering the promotion of anti-EU sentiments by Lavrov and historic animosity, it is likely to be a platform that the French may soon lose too.”
Russia’s presence in Mali has expanded as the role played by former coloniser France has diminished.
After spending nine years helping Mali’s army curb the spread of Islamic insurgents, France withdrew its forces last year after relations soured with the country’s ruling junta.
Col. Assimi Goita seized power in a 2020 coup and disappointed international partners when he failed to hold elections on the timeframe he originally agreed to. As French support waned, Goita enlisted help from Moscow.
According to lead Russia research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, Dr Stepanenko, Russia’s bids to gain allies in the African continent could lead to the expansion of China’s trading partnerships in the region.
Mali’s foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop on Tuesday again defended the government’s cooperation with Russia, saying that collaboration with France “does not meet the objectives of Malians.”
Diop said: “We are not going to continue to justify our choice of partners.
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“This decision is a decision of the Malians and a decision that is taken with full responsibility. And Mali wants to work with Russia.”
Independent human rights experts working with the UN have called for an investigation into possible abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by government forces in Mali and the Wagner Group, which is owned by an oligarch with close ties to Russia’s president.
The Pentagon has described the Wagner Group as a surrogate for the Russian Defence Ministry. The Kremlin denies any connection.
Western officials say hundreds of fighters from the Wagner Group began working more than a year ago alongside Mali’s armed forces to try to stem a decade-long insurgency by Islamic extremists in the West African country.
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Diplomats, analysts, and human rights groups say indiscriminate violence against civilians has grown since the mercenaries arrived, warning that extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have only become stronger.
However, Mali’s foreign minister said Tuesday that it should be Malian authorities and not outsiders assessing the reports of human rights violations.
Diop added: “Human rights groups must stop being instruments used by those who want to destabilise Mali.”
“We are accused of human rights abuses often by disguised terrorists themselves.”
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