Lavrov: Russia will continue to help Mali military

STORY: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday (February 7) that Russia will continue helping Mali improve its military capabilities.

A partnership that has prompted Western concern over the involvement of Russian private military contractor Wagner in Mali, which is also fighting alongside the Russian army in Ukraine.

Lavrov was speaking during a visit to the West African country, where militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have waged a decade-long insurgency that has spread to neighboring countries.

Last week, United Nations experts called for an independent investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by Malian government forces and Wagner.

Mali previously said Russian forces there are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment bought from Russia.

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian state had nothing to do with Russian military contractors working in Mali.

He added that the African country had the right to work with private Russian firms.

Russian news agency RIA quoted Lavrov saying that Moscow hopes to start delivering wheat, fertilizers and oil products to Mali soon.

He has visited a series of African countries recently, as Moscow seeks trade ties and strategic partnerships elsewhere.