The so-called Wagner Group, a private military company headed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, may deploy up to 1,000 troops to Mali, where Lithuanian troops are currently serving alongside German forces.
France is leading the anti-terrorist operation Barkhane and has previously asked Lithuania to join the EU’s Takuba mission. Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces (KASP) in Mali are currently tasked with protecting the German base and are deployed as part of the UN’s MINUSMA mission.
Under a new deal with Mali’s military junta, Wagner would send its forces to train local soldiers and protect VIPs, according to diplomatic sources speaking to Reuters.
"Public opinion in Mali is in favour of more cooperation with Russia," a Mali defence-ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man behind Wagner, is an oligarch considered close to the Russian president and has previously sent the mercenary troops to Syria, Libya, and Ukraine.