By John Ikani
Mali’s ruling junta on Monday announced the delivery of two more combat helicopters and surveillance radars from Russia as the West African nation tackles a bloody jihadist insurgency.
Photographs of the equipment being unloaded from a Russian cargo flight at Bamako international airport were posted on the official Twitter account of Mali’s presidency.
“We are receiving this second batch of military equipment from Russia,” said army chief of staff General Oumar Diarra.
“It’s a sign of a very fruitful partnership with the Russian state,” he said in a statement.
Le Chef d'État-major général des armées , le général de division Oumar Diarra a réceptionné ce lundi au nom du ministre de la défense et des anciens combattants, 2 hélicoptères de combat et des radars de surveillance. pic.twitter.com/V0lh931vZ0
— Presidence Mali (@PresidenceMali) April 18, 2022
The delivery brings to eight the known number of helicopters that Moscow has provided under closer ties forged by rebel colonels who seized power in 2020.
Russia has also supplied what are officially described as military instructors — personnel that former colonial power France and the United States say are operatives from Russia’s Wagner security group.
They have been helping the impoverished Sahel nation fight a decade-old jihadist campaign that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Mali’s rapprochement with the Kremlin has prompted French forces and their European allies to announce their exit from the country.
Visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned in Bamako last Wednesday that European forces would not cooperate with Mali’s military while it maintains such links with Russia.
There have been allegations that Malian troops, in coordination with foreign fighters, massacred hundreds of civilians in late March.
The army-dominated government regularly defends the rights record of its military and has also repeatedly denied hiring Wagner operatives.