Europeans Set Two-Week Deadline for Reviewing Mali Situation

European allies agreed on Friday to draw up plans within two weeks for how to continue their fight against Islamist militants in Mali, Denmark’s defense minister said, after France said the situation with the Malian junta had become untenable.

Tensions have escalated between Mali and its international partners since the junta failed to organize an election following two military coups.

It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said is incompatible with their mission.

“There was a clear perception that this is not about Denmark. It’s about a Malian military junta which wants to stay in power. They have no interest in a democratic election, which is what we have demanded,” Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen told Reuters.

Speaking after a virtual meeting of the 15 countries involved in the European special forces Takuba task mission, she said the parties had agreed to come up with a plan within 14 days to decide on what the “future counterterrorism mission should look like in the Sahel region.”

The ministers held talks after the junta had insisted on the immediate withdrawal of Danish forces despite the 15 nations’ rejecting its claims that Copenhagen’s presence was illegal.

“European, French and international forces are seeing measures that are restricting them. Given the situation, given the rupture in the political and military frameworks, we cannot continue like this,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio earlier in the day, adding that the junta was out of control.

He said the Europeans needed to think about how to adapt their operations.

‘Full of contempt’

Speaking to France 24 TV, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said that Le Drian’s comments were “full of contempt” and Paris needed to act less aggressively and respect Mali.

“France’s attitude needs to change. … We are reviewing several defense accords and treaties to ensure they don’t violate Mali’s sovereignty. If that’s not the case, we will not hesitate to ask for adjustments.” 

He said that Paris welcomed military coups “when they served its interests,” referring to a coup in neighboring Chad that has drawn little resistance from France.

The junta’s handling of Denmark is likely to affect future deployments, with Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Lithuania due to send troops this year. It raises questions about the broader future of French operations in Mali, where there are 4,000 troops. Paris had staked a great deal on bringing European states to the region.

Colonel Arnaud Mettey, commander of France’s forces in Ivory Coast, which backs up Sahel operations, told Reuters that the junta had no right to refuse Denmark’s presence given agreed treaties.

“Either they are rejecting this treaty and so put into question our presence, or they apply it,” he said. “France and the European Union will not disengage from the Sahel. Takuba will carry on.”

Diop said the departure of French troops was not on the table for now.

However, Denis Tull, senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said Paris may ultimately not be left with a choice.

“If this confrontation continues, there probably will simply be no political context in which the French transformation agenda for [France’s counterterrorism force] Barkhane can be applied and implemented as planned,” he said.

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US Warns ‘Horrific’ Outcome Nearing in Ukraine if Moscow Eschews Diplomacy

The most senior U.S. military officer warns Russia will end up blazing a path of death and devastation, for all sides, should it decide to resolve its differences with Ukraine by using military force. 

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley issued the blunt admonishment Friday during a rare news conference at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, where both men insisted tragedy could be avoided if Moscow was willing to pull back from the brink. 

“Given the type of forces that are arrayed, the ground maneuver forces, the artillery, the ballistic missiles, the air forces, all of it packaged together, if that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant,” Milley told reporters. 

“It would result in a significant amount of casualties. And you can imagine what that might look like in dense urban areas,” he said. “It would be horrific. It would be terrible. And it’s not necessary.” 

The U.S. warning Friday comes as the standoff between Russia and Ukraine appears to have reached a tipping point.

Later Friday, President Joe Biden told reporters he would add U.S. troops to the NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

“I’ll be moving troops to Eastern Europe and the NATO countries in the near term. Not too many,” Biden said upon return to Washington from a speech in Pennsylvania.

Putin’s call with Macron 

Senior U.S. defense officials cautioned that Russia had amassed sufficient firepower to launch a full-scale invasion at any time, while Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron that the West had failed to adequately address Moscow’s security concerns. 

Putin, according to the Kremlin, told Macron that the most recent Western diplomatic responses did not consider Russia’s concerns about NATO expansion such as stopping the deployment of alliance weapons near Russia’s border and rolling back its forces from Eastern Europe.  

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian radio stations Friday that Russia did not want war with Ukraine but that it would protect its interests against the West if necessary.   

“If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war. We don’t want wars,” Lavrov said. “But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored.”   

Escalating tensions and rhetoric 

But the U.S. defense secretary pushed back, telling Pentagon reporters Friday that no one has done anything to lead Russia to encircle Ukraine with more than 100,000 troops. 

“There was no provocation that caused them to move those forces,” Austin said Friday at the Pentagon, calling out Moscow for a new wave of disinformation campaigns.

“Indeed, we’re seeing Russian state media spouting off now about alleged activities in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “This is straight out of the Russian playbook. And they’re not fooling us.” 

Austin also painted Moscow’s saber-rattling as counterproductive. 

“A move on Ukraine will accomplish the very thing Russia says it does not want — a NATO alliance strengthened and resolved on its western flank,” he said. 

But with no sign of give from any side — U.S. and NATO officials have repeatedly rejected Russia’s demands — there are growing concerns that fear or hysteria could spread, making an already fragile situation more perilous. 

“We don’t need this panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a news conference in Kyiv on Friday, accusing U.S. leaders of talking up the possibility of conflict.

“Are tanks driving here on our streets? No. But it feels like this (reading the media),” he said. “In my opinion, this is a mistake. Because those are signals of how the world reacts.”

Despite the disagreement over rhetoric, U.S. and European officials said they continue to hold out hope that diplomacy can prevail. 

One senior U.S. administration official, talking to reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss developments, said remarks like those Friday by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov are a positive sign. 

“We welcome the message,” the official said. “We need to see it backed up by swift action.” 

The official added that Monday’s United Nations Security Council meeting on Ukraine will be “an opportunity for Russia to explain what it is doing, and we’ve come prepared to listen.” 

Ramping up military preparations 

    

While Russia and the U.S. and its allies have spent much of the past week trading demands, both sides have also ramped up military preparations.

Russia has launched military drills involving motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, dozens of warships in the Black Sea and the Arctic, and Russian fighter jets and paratroopers in Belarus.   

Ukraine’s military held artillery and anti-aircraft drills in the country’s southern Kherson region Friday near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea.

And the U.S., which has been providing Kyiv with anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers, artillery and ammunition, said another shipment arrived Friday to help bolster Ukrainian defenses. 

Also Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance has already bolstered its troop presence in Eastern Europe and continues to watch Russia’s military movements, including the positioning of aircraft and S-400 anti-aircraft systems in Belarus, closely. 

“The aim now is to try to reduce tensions,” Stoltenberg said, speaking online from Brussels at a Washington think-tank event. 

“We urge Russia, we call on Russia to engage in talks,” he said, adding that opting for the use of force will not work out well for Moscow.

“When it comes to Ukraine, I am absolutely certain that Russia understands they will have to pay a high price (for invading),” Stoltenberg said. “I am certain President Putin and Russia takes NATO very serious when it comes to our ability to protect and defend all allies.” 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.  

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UN Weekly Roundup: January 22-28, 2022

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch. 

UN chief: We cannot abandon the Afghan people 

The U.N. secretary-general warned on Wednesday that Afghanistan is “hanging by a thread,” as the organization appealed for a total of $8 billion to scale up humanitarian assistance to more than 22 million Afghans this year. 

UN Chief: Afghanistan ‘Hanging by a Thread’ 

Norway hosts talks between Taliban and Afghan civil society

Norway hosted three days of talks in Oslo between a Taliban delegation and members of Afghan civil society. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said at the U.N. this week that the meeting did not confer recognition or legitimacy on the Taliban but was “a first step” in dealing with the de facto Afghan authorities to prevent a humanitarian disaster in that country. 

Norway Defends Hosting Talks with Afghan Taliban 

Military coup in Burkina Faso

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the January 23 military coup in the West African nation of Burkina Faso that deposed President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and his government. Guterres said the role of militaries must be to defend their countries and people, not attack their governments and fight for power. 

The secretary-general’s special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, will travel to Burkina Faso this weekend on a good offices mission. 

West African Nations See String of Coups 

In brief

A U.N. team of experts arrived in Lima, Peru, on January 24 to assess the social and environmental impacts of an oil spill linked to the underwater volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in the Pacific island nation of Tonga. The team is specialized in contamination assessment and will advise authorities on how to manage and coordinate their response. 

Some good news

World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of the agency’s executive board on January 24 that if countries change the conditions driving the spread of coronavirus infections, it is possible to end the acute phase of the global pandemic this year. That includes vaccinating 70% of their populations, monitoring the emergence of new variants and boosting testing. 

A small but important glimmer of hope in Libya: the U.N. political chief told the Security Council on January 24 that the overall humanitarian situation improved in 2021. Rosemary DiCarlo said the U.N. recorded a 36% decrease in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, from 1.3 million at the start of 2021 to 803,000 by the end of the year. Additionally, about 100,000 of the more than quarter million displaced Libyans returned home last year. 

Quote of note

“Were we to observe a minute of silence for each victim, that silence would last more than eleven years.” 

— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing a virtual U.N. memorial ceremony marking the International Day for Holocaust remembrance on January 27. 

What we are watching next week

On January 31, the U.N. Security Council will hold an open meeting to discuss tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The meeting was requested by the United States, and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters, “This is just one more step in our diplomatic approach to bring the Russians to de-escalate and look for an opportunity to move forward.” The meeting will take place one day before Russia assumes the rotating presidency of the 15-nation council for the month of February. 

 

Did you know? 

The ancient Greek tradition of an Olympic truce goes into effect on January 28. It starts seven days before this year’s Winter Olympics open in Beijing and continues for a week after the close of the Paralympic Games. The U.N. General Assembly endorsed the truce during a meeting on January 20. The U.N. secretary-general is headed to Beijing for the opening ceremony on February 4. 

 

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Officials Say Russia Moved Blood Supplies Near Ukraine, Adding to US Concern,

Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine has expanded to include supplies of blood along with other medical materials that would allow it to treat casualties, in yet another key indicator of Moscow’s military readiness, three U.S. officials tell Reuters.

Current and former U.S. officials say concrete indicators — like blood supplies — are critical in determining whether Moscow would be prepared to carry out an invasion, if Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to do so.

The disclosure of the blood supplies by U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, adds another piece of context to growing U.S. warnings that Russia could be preparing for a new invasion of Ukraine as it masses more than 100,000 troops near its borders.

These warnings have included President Joe Biden’s prediction that a Russian assault was likely and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice.”

The Pentagon has previously acknowledged the deployment of “medical support” as part of Russia’s buildup. But the disclosure of blood supplies adds a level of detail that experts say is critical to determining Russian military readiness.

“It doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be another attack, but you would not execute another attack unless you have that in hand,” said Ben Hodges, a retired U.S. lieutenant general now with the Center for European Policy Analysis research institute.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately comment on any Russian movement of blood supplies but noted repeated public U.S. warnings about Russian military readiness.

The Pentagon declined to discuss intelligence assessments. The three U.S. officials who spoke about the blood supplies declined to say specifically when the United States detected their movement to formations near Ukraine. However, two of them said it was within recent weeks.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied planning to invade. But Moscow says it feels menaced by Kyiv’s growing ties with the West.

Eight years ago, Russia seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s security demands, presented in December, include an end to further NATO enlargement, barring Ukraine from ever joining and pulling back the alliance’s forces and weaponry from eastern European countries that joined after the Cold War.

Putin said Friday the United States and NATO had not addressed Russia’s main security demands in their standoff over Ukraine, but that Moscow was ready to keep talking.

Biden has said he will not send U.S. or allied troops to fight Russia in Ukraine but told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a phone call Thursday that Washington and its allies stand ready to respond decisively if Russia invades the former Soviet state, the White House said.

The United States and its allies have said Russia will face tough economic sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.

Western countries already have imposed repeated rounds of economic sanctions since Russian troops seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

But such moves have had scant impact on Russian policy, with Moscow, Europe’s main energy supplier, calculating that the West would stop short of steps serious enough to interfere with gas exports.

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Путін заявив Макрону, що США і НАТО у своїх відповідях «проігнорували» головні занепокоєння РФ

Росія вимагає від Заходу гарантій безпеки в обмін на деескалацію кризи навколо України, але США і НАТО 26 січня відхилили вимогу Москви назавжди «зачинити двері» до Альянсу для України й інших держав

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Pope Denounces Fake News About COVID, Vaccines, Urges Truth

Pope Francis denounced fake news about COVID-19 and vaccines Friday, blasting the “distortion of reality based on fear” but also urging that people who believe such lies are helped to understand true scientific facts.

Francis met with Catholic journalists who have formed a fact-checking network to try to combat misinformation about the pandemic. Francis has frequently called for responsible journalism that searches for the truth and respects individuals, and his meeting with the “Catholic fact-checking” media consortium furthered that message.

“We can hardly fail to see that these days, in addition to the pandemic, an ‘infodemic’ is spreading: a distortion of reality based on fear, which in our global society leads to an explosion of commentary on falsified if not invented news,” Francis said.

He said access to accurate information, based on scientific data, is a human right that must be especially guaranteed for those who are less equipped to separate out the morass of misinformation and commentary masquerading as fact that is available online.

At the same time, Francis asked for a merciful, missionary approach to those who fall prey to such distortions so they are helped to understand the truth.

“Fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility,” he said. “Reality is always more complex than we think and we must respect the doubts, the concerns and the questions that people raise, seeking to accompany them without ever dismissing them.”

Some Catholics, including some conservative U.S. bishops and cardinals, have claimed that vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses were immoral, and have refused to get the jabs.

The Vatican’s doctrine office, however, has said it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines, including those based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses. Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI have both been fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech shots.

Francis has been one of the most vocal religious leaders speaking out in favor of vaccines and respect for measures to fight the pandemic. He has implied that people have a “moral obligation” to ensure the health care of themselves and others, and the Vatican recently required all staff to either be vaccinated or show proof of having had COVID-19 to access their workplaces.

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Swedish-Kenyan Group Introduces Electric Buses in Kenya

A Swedish-Kenyan company, Opibus, has introduced the first African-designed and manufactured electric bus in Kenya with the aim of bringing clean energy to public transportation. Opibus, Kenya’s first company to make electric motorcycles, plans to launch the bus commercially in a few months and bring it to markets across Africa by 2023.

As other vehicles jostle for space while belching clouds of dark smoke in the streets of Nairobi, Benjamin Maina is driving a unique bus; one that is fully electric.

“I feel privileged driving this vehicle,” said Maina. “It is also very amazing when you are driving this vehicle compared to the fossil fuel vehicles, considering there is a lot of vibration on fossil fuel vehicles and also a lot of noise. But with this vehicle, it’s quite silent and very sleek.”

Public transport in Kenya and across the African continent is largely run informally, and emissions standards are rarely enforced, making the vehicles highly pollutive as Jane Akumu, a Sustainable Mobility expert at the U.N. Environment Program explains.

“If you look at the cities, the heavy-duty vehicles which are buses and trucks, that’s the bulk of the pollution,” said Akumu. “So, they are a big contributor to pollution. But as I said, they are also an opportunity. Because how do we shift to cleaner modes? Because we need mass transport to be sustainable to make cities more sustainable.”

The introduction of electric buses into the African market by Opibus is aimed at remedying the situation. Albin Wilson is the chief of strategy and marketing at Opibus.

“This electric bus is really (an) important first step in the transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electric clean mobility,” said Wilson. “And I think we are really showing precedence being the first movers in this market with a bus that is even locally developed.”

Christopher Maina is a resident of Nairobi. VOA asked him about his experience as a passenger riding on an electric bus.

“This ride today is one of its own, having ridden on an electric vehicle,” said Maina. “It’s just cool, no noises like the combustion engines, there are no smells like the combustion engines. So, it’s just cool and awesome to be in this vehicle.”

Africa’s electric car market, currently in its infancy, presents a huge opportunity for investment and the creation of green jobs, say experts. Here again is Jane Akumu.

“When you look at our source of electricity, it is renewable,” said Akumu. “For example, in Ethiopia it is almost 100% renewable energy: hydro and such. If you look at Kenya it is over 90%. So, we have energy. We don’t have to import fossil fuel; petrol, diesel and all that. So, we have the energy here, then this is also very good opportunity for jobs, green jobs.”

Benjamin Maina notes one other benefit of his electric bus – lower costs for maintenance and fuel.  It means more money in his pocket, he says, and a higher standard of living. 

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Pro-Russia Sentiment Grows in Burkina Faso After Coup

Some supporters of Burkina Faso’s military coup this week were seen celebrating with Russian flags and calling for their country to switch alliances from France to Moscow. While the extent of pro-Russia sentiment in Burkina Faso is unclear, there is no doubt many are fed up with French efforts to help fight gangs and Islamist militant groups.

Riding through the streets of Ouagadougou on Tuesday, two demonstrators flew a Russian flag, celebrating a military coup in the country a day earlier.

They also turned out in Ouagadougou’s Place de la Nation to celebrate the military takeover.

“No, we don’t want no more France,” one demonstrator told VOA. “We are here because we want the defense of Russia. France hasn’t done anything that gives us success.”

France has been giving military assistance to Burkina Faso during its six-year conflict with armed groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida.

Earlier this month, the leader of neighboring Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita, welcomed mercenaries into the country from the Russian private security company Wagner, which has close links to the Kremlin.

The mercenaries took over a military base in Timbuktu that was vacated by French troops in December.

Demonstrators in Burkina Faso carried pictures of Goita at this week’s demonstration and on Jan. 22, held a march in solidarity with Mali. Police broke up the gathering using flash bombs and tear gas.

Analysts say in recent months, there has been growing anti-French sentiment and a pivot toward Russia.

Analysts say Mali is using Russian involvement as a bargaining chip after the West African bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) sanctioned the country for refusing to hold democratic elections within the next five years.

“The Malian military junta is trying to mobilize national feeling, if you like,” said Paul Melly, an analyst with London-based think tank Chatham House. “It seems to have brought the Russians in or sought to bring the Russians in as a sort of tool of leverage. It’s not entirely clear how much practical military impact it could actually bring.”

The Russian Embassy in Burkina Faso and the military junta both declined to give VOA an interview.

Bernard Bermouga, a Burkinabe political commentator, is pragmatic about the situation.

“Whether Burkina Faso aligns with France, Russia or another country,” Bermouga said, “it’s not out of generosity. It’s not free. They’ll want something in return. What is needed is someone who can help Burkina Faso get out of the situation in which it finds itself.”

Activist Francois Beogo from Burkina Faso, who attended the demonstration, said the French must let them work things out on their own. The demonstrators are not against France, he said, but France must manage their affairs and allow Burkinabe to manage theirs. Without France, he said, soldiers will have peace of mind and be able to reflect on how to organize and free the people.

Meanwhile, the Russian organization that trains troops in the Central African Republic has offered military support to Burkina Faso. It remains to be seen if Burkina Faso’s new de facto leader, Paul-Henri Damiba, will take up the offer.

 

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Pro-Russian Sentiment Grows in Burkina Faso After Coup

Some supporters of Burkina Faso’s military coup this week were seen celebrating with Russian flags and calling for their country to switch alliances from France to Moscow. While the extent of pro-Russian sentiment in Burkina Faso is unclear, there is no doubt many are fed up with French efforts to help fight gangs and Islamist militant groups. Henry Wilkins reports from Ouagadougou.
Camera: Henry Wilkins

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China Weighs Risks, Rewards of US-Russia Standoff Over Ukraine

China is watching with interest as Russia and the West face off over Ukraine. Beijing is engaged in its own territorial disputes and has offered political support for Moscow. But as Henry Ridgwell reports, China has also invested billions of dollars in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which could be at risk in the event of any conflict.

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US Aware of Allegations of Russian Links to Burkinabe Coup

Reports that Russia is connected to this week’s coup in Burkina Faso have made their way to the Pentagon, though U.S. defense officials decline to say whether the allegations have merit. 

Burkinabe soldiers went on national television late Monday, announcing they had deposed President Roch Kabore due to “the continuous deterioration of the security situation which threatens the very foundations of our nation.” 

A day later, Alexander Ivanov, the official representative of Russian military trainers in the Central African Republic, issued a statement offering training to the Burkinabe military. The CAR has been employing mercenaries with Russia’s Wagner Group to help with security since 2017. 

“The Department of Defense is aware of the allegations that the Russian-backed Wagner Group may have been a force behind the military takeover in Burkina Faso,” Cindi King, a Defense Department spokesperson, told VOA Thursday. 

But the Pentagon stopped short of saying whether the allegations are true. 

“We cannot speak to these reports or any potential factors that led to this event,” King said of Monday’s coup.

“We support the State Department’s call for the Burkinabe armed forces to respect Burkina Faso’s constitution and civilian leadership,” she said. “We encourage the restoration of safety and security for the Burkinabe people and for legitimate, constitutional rule in Burkina Faso.” 

Questions emailed to the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Burkinabe Embassy in Washington seeking comment have not been answered. 

The Daily Beast first reported the allegations that Wagner was tied to the coup in Burkina Faso earlier this week, citing sources close to the deposed president as saying his final acts in office were to oppose requests by the Burkinabe military to hire Wagner. 

“The president quickly rejected the idea,” one official told The Daily Beast. “Kabore didn’t want to run into any problems with the West for aligning with Russia.” 

U.S. military and intelligence officials have been increasingly wary of the presence of mercenaries with Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa, which was initially limited to the CAR and Libya. 

The head of U.S. Africa Command confirmed to VOA last week allegations by France and other European nations that Wagner personnel are now in Mali, brought in by that country’s military junta despite multiple pleas and warnings from the U.S. and others.

“Wagner [Group] is in Mali. They are there, we think, numbering several hundred now,” said General Stephen Townsend, the commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). “Russian air force airplanes are delivering them.”

Whether Wagner mercenaries are destined for Burkina Faso, U.S. officials are wary. 

“We’ve been watching this for years,” said Major General Andrew Rohling, the commander of the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, during an online seminar late Wednesday.

“It is a way that Russia of course is able to influence [a] military without actually putting a Russian flag on it,” he said, calling the situation in Burkina Faso “a little bit of an unknown right now.” 

As in Mali, though, where demonstrators have repeatedly voiced support for Russian assistance, there seems to be at least some support among Burkinabes for turning to Moscow. 

Speakers at a rally of about 1,000 people earlier this week in Ouagadougou, the capital, repeatedly called for Russian military intervention. 

U.S. forces have been supporting Burkinabe forces through several initiatives over the past several years as the country has battled extremists aligned both with al-Qaida and the Islamic State terror group. 

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it was reviewing the situation in Burkina Faso and the impact on relations with the U.S. military going forward. 

Separately, U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Sandra Clark told VOA that should the Burkinabe military install its own leader, Washington could cut support to the country. 

VOA’s Henry Wilkins contributed to this report.

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