Bamako, Mali (AFP):
Mali’s military rulers have received more warplanes and helicopters from Russia, the latest in a series of deliveries from its new top military and political ally.
The shipment consists of eight planes and two helicopters which were displayed at a ceremony attended by Russian ambassador Igor Gromyko and the head of Mali’s junta, Colonel Assimi Goita.
Mali’s military said the shipment included Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes designed to support ground troops, and the Czech-designed Albatros L-39.
L-39s, while initially designed for training purposes, have also been used as attack aircraft.
Bamako also received Mi-8s, Soviet-designed Russian transport helicopters that, as well as transporting troops and equipment, can be fitted with weapons to defend ground troops.
Malian officials did not give a detailed breakdown of how many of each aircraft had been delivered, and while they say they purchased the weapons, they have released no details of the transactions.
This is the latest in a series of similar Russian deliveries of military equipment, following others in March and August of 2022.
The West African country has been fighting an insurgency as well as a political and humanitarian crisis since 2012.
After the colonels currently in power staged their 2020 coup, relations with former colonial power France quickly broke down, and Russia has stepped in to fill the void.
France is widely perceived in Mali to be intervening in its former colony to protect its own interests.
Multiple sources say the junta started bringing in paramilitaries from the Russian group Wagner from late 2021, provoking criticism from several countries.
The military rulers have denied the allegations, saying they have simply revived longstanding links with Russia and its army.
In the ceremony on Thursday, Mali’s current air force chief General Alou Boi Diarra hailed the latest deliveries as the latest stage in the “unprecedented” modernisation of the country’s forces.