Maputo — The Mozambican Deputy Defence Minister, Patricio Jose, on Thursday refused to confirm or deny the presence of Russian troops in the country to assist in the fight against terrorist groups in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
The independent television station STV questioned Jose in the wake of photographs, circulating on the Internet, showing supposed Russian military personnel unloading military equipment from transport planes at Nacala airport.
Asked about this, the Deputy Minister replied "The FADM (Mozambican Armed Forces), like any other forces, needs equipment. We are not going to put in the newspaper that we buy equipment from this or that place".
"The FADM have to guarantee the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this country so that you (journalists) can exercise your rights normally", he said.
"Combat is not like a cocktail", he added, but would not be drawn any further.
The independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique" says that the material was taken out of the Russian aircraft by the company Trans Ruccs Phoenix, owned by the former mayor of Nacala, Rui Chong Saw, and then flown to Cabo Delgado in an Antonov transport plane owned by the Mozambican air force.
The newsheet's sources, however, said that the military equipment did not come from the Russian armed forces but from a private Russian military company, the Wagner Group, which has reputedly been involved in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Syrian regime, and in helping separatist forces in the eastern Ukraine.
The arrival of the Russian equipment is a further indication of the seriousness with which the government now views the situation in Cabo Delgado. On Wednesday, President Filipe Nyusi declared "It's very clear that we are the victims of a disguised invasion, of barbaric acts committed by faceless people, who murder, loot the possessions of the people, and incite disobedience of the government authorities".
The previous day he had demanded more vigorous action from the armed forces against the insurgency and Defence Minister Atanasio M'tumuke, when accrediting new military attaches, said ""To overcome this ordeal, we are counting on the support of our cooperation partners for the fight against these criminals."