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Russia Vetoes UN Extension of Mali Expert Team Amid Wagner Group Controversy

SanctionsRussia Vetoes UN Extension of Mali Expert Team Amid Wagner Group Controversy

Russia has used its veto power at the United Nations (UN) to block the extension of a team of UN experts in Mali. These experts had implicated foreign fighters, indirectly referring to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, in widespread abuses within the West African country’s military.

A proposal to extend sanctions on Mali for a year and maintain the expert team was supported by thirteen out of fifteen members of the UN Security Council. Russia exercised its veto, backed by China’s abstention, to prevent this proposal’s passage. Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, emphasized that the sanctions were initially established in 2017 to support a peace agreement within Mali, and they should solely address that matter.

Russia suggested extending the sanctions for one final year but proposed an immediate end to the independent monitoring team. The experts had criticized actions by Malian forces and their “foreign security partners,” alluding to the Wagner forces, which operate in Mali.

Recent reports by independent UN sanctions monitors indicated that Malian soldiers and their foreign security partners, likely Russian mercenaries, were involved in violence against women and other severe human rights abuses. These actions were aimed at spreading terror. The Wagner group was also implicated in a massacre that occurred in the central Malian town of Moura, where at least 500 people lost their lives.

Following consecutive coups in 2020 and 2021, Mali has shifted its stance in favor of Russia and supported Moscow at the UN concerning its invasion of Ukraine. Mali’s military leaders expelled French forces and UN peacekeepers from the country while aligning more closely with Russia.

The United States accused the Wagner group, with around 1,000 fighters in Mali, of influencing Mali’s military to request the departure of the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force. This operation, in place for a decade, is scheduled to conclude by year-end. The UK representative at the UN criticized Russia’s veto, stating that it would diminish the council’s oversight during a crucial period in Mali’s peace process.

By FCCT Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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