Mali: Russia Blocks Renewal of UN Sanctions in Mali

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (file photo).
31 August 2023

Harare — Russia blocked efforts to keep in Mali a team of UN experts who accused foreign fighters of taking part in numerous violations in the military-run West African nation, Al Jazeera reports.

This comes after independent U.N. sanctions monitors informed the Security Council that violence against women and other "grave human rights abuses" are being used by Mali's military and its foreign security allies, thought to be the Wagner mercenary group from Russia, to foment terrorism.

On August 30, 13 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council supported a motion that would have maintained the experts and extended the sanctions against Mali for another year. However, Russia used its veto at the UN summit to thwart the extension plan put up by France and the United Arab Emirates, while China abstained from the vote.

The sanctions were initially put in place in 2017 to promote a peace agreement in the long-troubled nation, according to Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's UN envoy.

Despite wanting a fast end to the independent monitoring team, Russia suggested extending the sanctions for one final year.

Western governments accused Russia of retaliating against the UN experts after they criticized Malian forces and their "foreign security partners" - a clear reference to Wagner forces active in Mali.

UN rights investigators also found that at least 500 people were massacred in March 2022 in the central Mali town of Moura by Malian troops and foreign forces, one of which was Wagner.

Following consecutive coups in 2020 and 2021, Mali's allegiance to Russia has radically shifted, making it one of the few countries to support Moscow at the UN over its invasion of Ukraine. In addition, Mali's military rulers have expelled UN peacekeepers and French forces who were battling ISIL (ISIS) fighters from the nation.

The U.S. accused Wagner, which has approximately 1,000 fighters stationed in Mali, with orchestrating the country's military's sudden request for the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force to depart.

In July, the U.S. sanctioned Mali's defense minister and two military officers, accusing them of facilitating the expansion of the Russian mercenary company Wagner in the West African country. Col. Sadio Camara, the chief of staff of the air force, Col. Alou Boi Diarra, and Lt. Col. Adama Bagayoko, the deputy chief of staff, were the targets of the sanctions, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The British government imposed sanctions on 13 people and organizations in the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, and Sudan with ties to the Wagner paramilitary group.

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