Tensions have risen between Paris and the country’s military junta in recent weeks, including over the fate of European forces deployed in the region to fight jihadists.
The US military estimated last week that hundreds of Wagner’s staff were in the Sahel state, but the country’s ruling military has said this is not true.
Wagner’s mercenaries are “former Russian soldiers, armed by Russia and accompanied by Russian logistics,” Le Drian said.
“They are already at this moment using the resources of the country in exchange for protecting the board. They are looting Mali,” he told the Journal du Dimanche.
“Wagner uses the weakness of certain states to establish himself … to strengthen Russia’s influence in Africa,” Le Drian added, although he said he was not seeking to replace the Europeans in the region.
The French foreign minister did not say what would happen to a European force deployed to the area to fight jihadists after Mali’s rulers managed to expel a contingent of Danish troops this week.
“We are talking to our partners to see what kind of response is needed,” he said.
“Our fight against terrorism must continue, but probably under different conditions,” he added.
When asked if this meant a withdrawal from Mali, he replied: “I didn’t say that.”
Source Credit: TheGuardian