Mali junta has accused France of violating its air space after Paris released drone footage of mass burials by “Russian mercenaries” at former French military base.

Mali's junta government referred to the June 2021 decision by France to end joint operations with Malian forces.
Mali's junta government referred to the June 2021 decision by France to end joint operations with Malian forces. (AFP Archive)

Mali's ruling junta has said it was breaking off from its defence accords with France, condemning "flagrant violations" of its national sovereignty by the French troops there.

"For some time now, the government of the Republic of Mali notes with regret a profound deterioration in military cooperation with France," spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said in a televised statement on Monday.

Maiga cited multiple instances of French forces having violated the country's airspace.

He also referred to the June 2021 decision by France to end joint operations with Malian forces.

France is the former colonial power in Mali.

Tensions between France and the junta in Mali, which seized power in August 2000, have been rising for some time.

READ MORE: Mali accuses France of 'spying' after mass grave footage

Burying bodies

Mali has accused the French army of "spying" and "subversion" after it used a drone to film what France alleged was mercenaries burying bodies near a military base.

The drone "illegally" flew over the Gossi base on April 20, the day after French forces handed the site back to Mali, the junta said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The following day, the French army shared a video it said showed Russian mercenaries covering bodies with sand to falsely accuse the departing troops of war crimes. Two soldiers could be seen filming the half-buried corpses.

Last week, Mali's military announced an inquiry into the discovery of a mass grave at the Gossi base.

The army said it found the grave the day after the images were published and claimed the bodies' advanced stage of putrefaction ruled out Malian soldiers' responsibility.

READ MORE: Mali troops, suspected Russian mercenaries kill hundreds of civilians: HRW

Lavrov: Wagner on commercial basis

The Russian foreign minister has said that a Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, is present in Mali and Libya "on a commercial basis".

In an interview with Italy's Mediaset, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow's official position that Wagner "has nothing to do with the Russian state."

He said that Moscow "explained this to our French colleagues when they became nervous because Wagner had agreed with the government of Mali to provide security services."

"My esteemed colleague Jean-Yves Le Drian as well as (EU foreign policy chief) Josep Borr ell back in September 2021 told me directly that Russia has nothing to do in Africa either through state channels or through private military companies because Africa is a zone (of interests) of the EU and France," Lavrov said in the interview published on Sunday.

"We also explained the situation that has developed in Libya, where this private military company was invited by the authorities in the city of Tobruk, where the Libyan parliament is located," he added.

"They are there on a commercial basis, as well as in Mali."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies