Mali strengthens ties with Russia, receives six more Soviet-era warplanes
Mali has received five military jets and a combat helicopter from Russia, which has become a close ally in its fight against a long-running jihadist insurgency. The move underscores the widening rift between Bamako and Paris.
The head of Mali's military junta, Assimi Goita, joined Russian diplomats at a ceremony in Bamako on Tuesday for the handover of five L-39 and Sukhoi-25 jets and an Mi-24P helicopter.
The Soviet-era warplanes are the latest batch of deliveries under close ties that have been forged since the Sahel state underwent a coup in August 2020.
In a speech, Defence Minister Sadio Camara paid tribute to what he called Mali's "win-win partnership with the Russian Federation".
He said the new deliveries "strengthen our reconnaissance and attack capabilities."
France set to complete military withdrawal
Mali's military regime has brought in Russian paramilitaries – described by Bamako as military instructors but by Western nations as mercenaries – to support the country's armed forces.
Their deployment was a key factor in prompting France, Mali's former colonial power and traditional ally, to pull its military forces out of the country.
The full withdrawal is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
Previous Russian arms deliveries disclosed this year have been two Mi-24P helicopters and surveillance radars, which was announced in April, and two helicopters and mobile radar systems in March.
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However, there have been no details about the terms under which Mali has acquired the weapons.
One of the poorest countries in the world, Mali has been battling against a jihadist campaign that began in the north of the country in 2012.
The attacks have spread to the centre and south of Mali and into Niger and Burkina Faso.
Across the Sahel region, thousands of people have died and more than two million have fled their homes.