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Russia Blocks Extension of UN Sanctions and Monitoring in Mali Amid Grave Human Rights Accusations

Published September 21, 2023
8 months ago

In an unprecedented move at the United Nations Security Council, Russia has decisively vetoed the extension of a resolution whose aim was to maintain a UN expert team in Mali. The team had indicated participation of foreign fighters, implicitly linked to Russia's Wagner mercenary force, in widespread abuses in the West African nation, now controlled by the military.

Despite 13 out of 15 members of the UN Security Council backing the resolution, Russia stood its ground, stonewalling efforts to extend sanctions against Mali for another year and maintain the expert team. France and the United Arab Emirates led the thwarted extension proposal. Meanwhile, China opted to abstain from the vote.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's UN ambassador, justified Russia's stance, stating that the sanctions, instituted in 2017, were to bolster a peace agreement for the formerly war-torn nation. Nebenzia added that the sanctions must be limited to this issue alone and not exploited as a weapon of foreign influence over Mali, allegedly the modus operandi of the UN Security Council expert panel.

In retaliation, Russia suggested a final one-year extension of the sanctions, while simultaneously demanding an abrupt end to the independent monitoring team. This move by Russia has been interpreted by Western powers as a counterattack against the UN experts after they openly criticized the Wagner forces' activities in Mali.

The UN-sanctioned monitors had previously reported to the Security Council that there were substantial violations of human rights orchestrated towards spreading terror by Mali soldiers in conjunction with their foreign security partners—believed to be the Russian mercenaries. Similarly, earlier this year, UN rights investigators had accused Malian troops in concert with foreign forces— ostensibly Wagner— for a large-scale massacre in the central Malian town of Moura resulting in at least 500 mortalities.

The political landscape of Mali has recently shown a significant shift towards Russia, following successive coups in 2020 and 2021. It is one of the few nations that backed Russia at the UN during its controversial invasion of Ukraine.

Mali's military has also expelled French forces, previously involved in combating ISIL (ISIS) group-affiliated insurgents, along with UN peacekeepers from the country. Russia's veto move has been considered "reckless" by the UK's envoy to the council James Kariuki, underlining a critical juncture of Mali's peace process.

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