Wagner in Mali: an exclusive investigation into Putin’s mercenaries

By Benjamin Roger, Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Friday, 18 February 2022 12:19, updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2022 10:31

Photomontage: JAMG

For several months, mercenaries from Wagner Group have had a foothold in Mali. But how did they get there? How many of them are there, and where are they deployed? And how do they finance themselves? We lift the veil on the shadow theatre from Moscow to Bamako.

Everyone made sure to bring their files. Emmanuel Macron, wearing a black suit and matching tie, placed a folder of the same colour under his left hand. The French president took care to prepare some notes. The former Minister of the Economy has been taught well: several of his elders in the government taught him that a good politician never goes anywhere without a few papers under his arm. It’s a question of credibility.

A few metres away, on the other side of a five-metre long table, Vladimir Putin is watching him. Dressed in a navy blue that contrasts with the cream-coloured hues of the Kremlin’s representation room, with his elbows spread out, the Russian head of state had dug his heels into the ground. The posture evoked nonchalance, assurance and experience.

For five hours on 7 February, the two adversaries discussed security in Eastern Europe and the crisis in Ukraine, which is threatened with invasion by Russia. But Mali was also on the agenda. For several months, Paris has been denouncing the growing involvement of the Wagner group in Bamako, while Moscow has simply denied any link with these mercenaries. Emmanuel Macron is not fooled. The intelligence at his disposal proved the connection between the group and Yevgeny Prigozhin, someone familiar to the man now facing him on the other side of the huge table.