Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mali’s interim president, Assimi Goita Tuesday had a telephone conversation over events unfolding in Niger – a development that is likely to raise concerns among Western leaders about Russia’s increasing influence in the West African region.
“At the initiative of the Malian side, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the Transitional Period of the Republic of Mali Assimi Goita,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Tuesday.
The pair discussed a number of topics but “particular attention” was given to the situation in the Sahara-Sahel region, according to the statement.
Putin emphasized that an “exclusively peaceful political and diplomatic means,” was important in resolving the ongoing situation, the statement said.
The Kremlin said the conversation was “in continuation of the Russian-Malian high-level talks” held at the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg last month.
Putin’s call for a peaceful resolution comes days after West African leaders ordered the “activation” and the “deployment” of a regional standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger following President Mohamed Bazoum’s removal in a coup d’etat by the presidential guard in late July.
Putin also mentioned the situation in the Sahara-Sahel region while speaking in a pre-recorded message at Tuesday’s Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS).
“The countries of the Sahara-Sahel region, such as the Central African Republic and Mali, were under direct attack from numerous terrorist groups after the US and its allies unleashed aggression against Libya, which led to the collapse of the Libyan state,” Putin stated.
Mali’s interim president Goita also reiterated Putin’s call for “a peaceful resolution” in Niger.
“He (Putin) stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the situation for a more stable Sahel,” Goita said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Mali has continued to urge the UN and African Union to prevent any military intervention against Niger.
Mali hosted a large delegation of officials from the Niger junta in early August, signaling a potential partnership between the Niger junta and Wagner mercenary group.
Wagner fighters are active in Mali, invited by the leadership of Mali to quell an Islamic insurgency brewing near the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
Wagner founder and financier Yevgeny Prigozhin was spotted at the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg last month, meeting with African dignitaries on the sidelines, according to accounts associated with the mercenary group.
CNN’s Larry Madowo and Vasco Cotovio contributed to this report.