In Mali, the Russian paramilitary group Wagner “fails to achieve its stated counter-terrorism objective.” This is the conclusion drawn from a video investigation released on August 15th, 2023, by the renowned newspaper “Le Monde”.
Just a year after the withdrawal of the French military force Barkhane, which completed its exit on August 15, 2023, and a little over a year and a half after the arrival of Russian Wagner mercenaries in Mali in late 2021, Le Monde’s investigation finds the alliance between the Malian army and the Wagner group to be ineffective against the jihadist threat. Worse still, the investigation demonstrates how, according to Le Monde, “Wagner has exacerbated violence in Mali.”
Le Monde’s journalists meticulously analyzed satellite imagery, US and European diplomatic documents, as well as statistical data from the NGO Acled, which meticulously records information about violence including dates, actors, locations, and outcomes. Reports from the United Nations and the organization All Eyes On Wagner were also used to substantiate the findings.
A Force of 1,600 Men
According to this investigation, around 1,600 Russian mercenaries affiliated with the Wagner group are currently stationed in Mali, spread across at least seven bases. Despite numerous confirmations from Russian officials, including the head of Wagner, Evgueni Prigojine himself, the transitional Malian authorities continue to deny their presence. Bamako persists in characterizing these individuals as mere “instructors” participating in a “state-to-state cooperation.” However, Evgueni Prigojine confirmed his men’s presence in an audio recording released in April. Even before that, as early as February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in May of the same year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, had also acknowledged this presence.