The accusation came from Washington: « Wagner [le groupe de mercenariat russe] attempted to buy military equipment from foreign suppliers and transport these weapons via Mali”, said the spokesman for the US State Department, Matthew Miller, Monday, May 22, during a press briefing. A war arsenal whose vocation, still according to the American administration, “to be used in Ukraine”, “to help Russia’s war, through Mali”.
A document from the American intelligence services that is part of a leak of classified information disclosed on the social network of online gamers Discord sheds more light on the role that Bamako plays with Russian society. Consulted by The worldhe affirms that the president of the Malian transition, Colonel Assimi Goïta, has “confirmed that Mali may acquire weapons from Turkey on behalf of Wagner”. This same undated document indicates that Russian mercenaries have, for their part, “met Turkish contacts in early February to buy arms and equipment from Turkey”.
During his press briefing, Matthew Miller, meanwhile, stressed that Wagner’s men, present in Mali since December 2021, were “willing to use false documents for these transactions”, without, however, mentioning the supposed involvement of Istanbul. “There is not even anything to comment on”reacted Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wednesday, May 24. “The US State Department should rather be dealing with substantive weapons-related matters rather than such ‘informational waste’… It should have answered the question of how aware the United States is of the proliferation of weapons in the world in the context of supposed aid to the Kiev regime, because these weapons are immediately sold on the black market”she retorted.
Classic modus operandi
“It’s a game of false signatures, explains a Western diplomat posted in Bamako. Wagner is looking for states that are weak enough, like Mali, to sign bogus arms deals with another third country in exchange for a commission. The State signs, pretending that the weapons are intended for it when in reality they are sent to Ukraine. »
According to Matt Schroeder, senior researcher at the Swiss NGO Small Arms Survey, the use of third countries to circumvent international regulations governing the trade in firearms or embargoes imposed on certain States is a classic modus operandi, frequently used by arms traffickers: “Smugglers often attempt to conceal the true destination of an arms shipment by claiming, for example, that they will be delivered to a legitimate end user, such as a state’s armed forces. In some cases, the trafficker is colluding with corrupt third country officials. In others, no one in the third country knows about the transfer. »