Mercenaries from the Wagner Group are making £8million a month waging war in Mali as it exchanges African gold to help fund Vladimir Putin’s war machine, according to reports.
Business for the terror group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin until his violent death in August is booming in Africa where proxy wars have brought chaos and sparked horrific bloodshed.
The military junta which seized power in a coup invited Wagner in to smash Islamic State terrorists in 2021 and since then they have propped up the military regime.
In June, Washington accused Wagner of helping to engineer the exit of United Nations peacekeeping troops from the west African republic.
US intelligence experts have said the mercenary group is benefitting from its activities in Mali to the tune of £8million per month.
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Professor Salvador Sánchez Tapi, an expert in conflict analysis at the University of Navarra, told The Sun Wagner offers a broad portfolio of violence, atrocities and human rights violations.
He added that in Mali anything related to buttressing the junta takes precedence over improving the overall security situation in the country.
Russia and Mali both insist the Russian fighters in the African country are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops fight an insurgency by Islamist militants.
But shocking video emerged in September which appeared to show the moment a Russian-made Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft exploded in Mali, with some reports claiming Wagner mercenaries were on board.
Meanwhile, Moscow has been accused of earning huge profits on the back of Wagner’s turning Mali into a battleground which has seen hundreds of civilians killed and wounded.
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Witnesses told Human Rights Watch armed, non-French speaking foreigners were present in attacks on villages.
They described the foreign soldiers as either white, Russian or Wagner.
In one such case, “foreign” soldiers attacked the village of Séguéla which led to the grim discovery of eight bodies on February 3.
A Human Rights Watch report claimed Mali’s armed forces have killed at least 175 civilians between April to September, with the backing of Wagner forces.
Wagner’s atrocities in Africa come as the Kremlin takes more and more interest in the continent’s gold as Russia seeks ways to finance its bloody war on Ukraine.
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Mali announced an agreement this week with Russia to build what will become the country’s largest gold refinery. In effect, it would allow Putin “to control all gold production”.
Jessica Berlin, co-author of the Blood Gold report, said: “The price is being paid in lives across Africa and Ukraine.”
The report notes that over the past three years anti-democratic violence, coups, and civil conflict have swept across West Africa, from Mali to Niger, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, the Gambia and Gabon.
It adds: “In nearly every instance, Russian PMCs (private milirary companies), operating with the imprimatur of the Russian State, have provided some level of support to these anti-democratic movements.
“Russian PMCs have been implicated in potential war crimes in West Africa, including the infamous Moura massacre (March 2022), in which 500 Malian civilians were murdered.
“A growing body of evidence points to the fact that warlords, juntas, and authoritarian regimes across West Africa are financing their costly reliance on PMCs through the extraction of precious minerals and metals, especially gold.”
The Blood Gold Report also exposes Western mining companies and what the study’s authors describe as their “possible complicity” in violence in Africa and Ukraine.
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