Russia has blocked a request put forward by France at the UN Security Council for “independent investigations” into the alleged massacre of several hundred civilians in Mali by the Malian army and Russian paramilitaries, diplomatic sources said on Saturday.
RFI reports that Mali’s army announced on the 1st of April that it had killed 203 “militants” in Moura, in central Mali, during an operation in late March.
However, that announcement followed widely shared social media reports of a civilian massacre in the area. Human Rights Watch has alleged that Malian soldiers and foreign fighters executed 300 civilians there between 27 and 31 March.
The request for a UN investigation had been included in a statement drafted by France and submitted for approval Friday by the Security Council.
But Russia, supported by China, “didn’t see the need” for the text and considered it “premature,” given that an investigation has been opened by the Malian authorities, one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
On Friday, Russia congratulated Mali on an “important victory” against “terrorism,” and it described as “disinformation” allegations about the massacre, as well as claims about the involvement of Russian mercenaries.
Bamako denies the presence of mercenaries from the Russian group Wagner in Mali, acknowledging only the presence of Russian “instructors” and “trainers” under a bilateral cooperation agreement with Moscow dating from the 1960s.
For more than a week, the UN has been demanding access to the area to investigate under its Security Council mandate, to no avail.
Relations between France and Mali have been tense since France announced it would pull its forces out of Mali after a 9-year effort to put down a jihadist insurgency.
More than 2,400 French soldiers stationed in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane are in retreat following Macron’s announcement in February that “multiple obstructions” by Mali had made it impossible for France to continue its mission there.
Relations have also deteriorated since military junta went back on an agreement to organize elections in February, and instead proposed holding on to power until 2025.