Mali’s discussions with the Russian Wagner Group have sparked intense debate among the European Union members deployed to Mali under a French-led coalition to defeat Islamic jihadists. The Wagner Group mercenary company is owned by  Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mali is in discussions to hire 1,000-1,200 Wagner mercenaries.

France, Germany, the U.K., Estonia, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have hinted that the hiring of Wagner Group mercenaries is incompatible with their involvement in the conflict.

Many Malians naively believe that the Russians can replace French troops, who are due to pull out of the country, fast enough. However, given Wagner’s past in Africa, this is a case of “be careful what you ask for.”