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Mali receives two Russian military helicopters

Illustration photo: NH90 Caiman helicopters piloted by German soldiers taking off from Gao airport in Mali, July 25, 2017   -  
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The ruling military junta in Bamako has received a new shipment of Russian equipment for the Malian armed forces, including "two combat helicopters and surveillance radars.

"We are receiving this second batch of military equipment from Russia. This is the manifestation of a very fruitful partnership with the Russian state," a statement from the Directorate of Information and Public Relations of the Armed Forces on Monday reads.

The official Twitter account of Mali's presidency posted images of the unloading of the cargo from the Russian cargo plane that brought the equipment to Bamako's international airport.

The colonels who took power by force in August 2020 in Mali in the midst of security turmoil have drawn closer to Russia at the same time as they turned away from France.

Against the backdrop of a diplomatic crisis with the junta, Paris announced in February the withdrawal of its soldiers deployed in Mali, an operation due to be completed this summer.

On March 31, Bamako received two Russian combat helicopters and radars, "Mil Mi-35P attack helicopters" and "59N6-TE mobile radar systems", according to the specialised newsletter Africa Intelligence.

"If this equipment allows the head of the junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, to personally claim to have strengthened [the Malian army] with the support of Russia, it is in fact former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), overthrown by Goïta [...] who is behind the order," writes Africa Intelligence in a note published on 11 April.

According to the same source, this order was part of an agreement "concluded from the government to government in 2019" and provided for the purchase of helicopters "under financial conditions significantly more attractive" than those offered by the European group Airbus.

A communication officer at the Ministry of Defence in Bamako has however denied this information. "Even the helicopters received a fortnight ago were [not] orders from the IBK regime [...] We do not recognise orders from another regime," the official said on condition of anonymity, according to the AFP.

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