The European Union agreed on Monday to draft a framework for possible sanctions against Russian mercenaries who could be deployed in the Sahel region of West Africa, the French foreign minister said. Reuters reported in September that the Malian military junta was in talks over the deployment of the Russian Wagner group in Mali, which France finds unacceptable because it has its own troops in the region.
“There is a common will to decide on a legal framework for the sanctions that will be imposed on the Wagner group,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers on The Mali. Le Drian said any sanctions would also be imposed on any company working with the Wagner Group.
French officials have said the junta is looking to Wagner as part of efforts to cling to power beyond a transitional period set to end after presidential and legislative elections on February 27. Relations between France and its former colony have deteriorated over Wagner and since Paris announced in June that it would reshape its 5,000-person counterterrorism mission in the region.
The Malian Prime Minister accused Paris of having abandoned Bamako. The West African country is a former French colony. Reuters was unable to reach the Wagner Group for comment. More than a dozen people with ties to the Wagner group previously told Reuters he had conducted clandestine combat missions on behalf of the Kremlin in Ukraine, Libya and Syria. Russian authorities are refusing Wagner contractors to fulfill their orders.
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