The European Union decided on Monday to establish a framework for prospective penalties on Russian mercenaries stationed in West Africa’s Sahel region, according to France’s foreign minister.
According to Reuters, Mali’s military junta was discussing the deployment of Russia’s Wagner Group in Mali, which France argues is unacceptable because it has its own soldiers in the region.
“There is a collective intention to decide on a legislative basis for sanctions to be imposed on the Wagner Group,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters on the sidelines of an EU foreign ministers conference on Mali.
Le Drian said any sanctions would also be imposed on any companies working with the Wagner Group.
French officials say the junta is turning to Wagner as part of efforts to cling to power beyond a transition period due to end after the Feb. 27 presidential and legislative elections.
Relations between France and its former colony have soured over Wagner and since Paris said in June it would reshape its 5,000-strong counter-terrorism mission in the region.
Mali’s prime minister has accused Paris of abandoning Bamako. The West African country is a former French colony. Reuters has been unable to reach the Wagner Group for comment.
Over a dozen people with ties to the Wagner Group have previously told Reuters it has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine, Libya and Syria. Russian authorities deny Wagner contractors carry out their orders.