Moscow expects Paris to aid in probes instead of using the occasion to tarnish the image of the Malian military.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the Western media might be tempted to blame the Malian army for the alleged atrocities after a mass grave was found near a camp of French forces in central Mali.
The ministry said that it supports the decision of the Mali authorities to investigate the circumstances of this crime in the most thorough way, and that it expects Paris to contribute effectively to the probes into the murders and disappearance of the Malian citizens. The statement came just days after videos emerged on social media that showed a mass grave with dozens of bodies discovered in a military camp once occupied by French forces taking part in Operation Barkhane in Mali and neighboring African nations.
The Malian Army FAMA has confirmed late Friday that they have found a mass grave near the former French camp in Gossi, central Mali. The French military left the advanced operational base on Tuesday and handed it over to the Malian military. Hundreds of French soldiers were reported to have been hosted at the base.
FAMA said that the responsibility for this act can't be attributed to Malian soldiers because of the advanced state of putrefaction of the bodies. The Defense Ministry of the nation said it would open an investigation into the case.
The French Army immediately reacted to the developments by calling it part of an information war and blaming the Wagner GroupWagner Group as a private Russian military organization deployed around the world, including Mali and other African countries.
The French military claimed they had drone footage showing Wagner Group troops burying bodies near the base after the French withdrawal. Very precise information leads us to say that these are Wagner's men. The paper says that their military uniforms do not match those of the Malian army, and that the video quality does not make it possible to determine skin color of the people surrounding the corpses.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that some French media outlets or public officials might be tempted to spread a false narrative in the media aimed at the Malian military. The success of the Malian Army might upset Paris because French forces failed to achieve similar results during their mission in the country, according to the ministry.
In 2014, France launched Operation Barkhane with support from a small number of European states, partnering with five former colonies in Sahel Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
The goal of the coalition was to prevent the region from becoming a safe haven for Islamist terrorist groups. In July 2021, Macron announced that the operation would end in the first quarter of 2022.
Relations between Paris and Bamako deteriorated after Mali underwent two coups in the space of two years, and the ruling military junta refused to hold elections in February. Mali, which is still fighting an Islamist insurgency, told France to rein in its colonial reflexes in January.