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Putin discusses food and fuel supplies in call with Malian leader

MOSCOW, Aug 10 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed possibly supplying food, fertilisers and fuel to Mali in a phone call with the African country’s interim leader Assimi Goita on Wednesday, according to a Kremlin statement.

Goita said on Twitter the two leaders talked about Russia’s support for Mali’s political transition.

Goita’s junta came to power in a coup two years ago and has sparred repeatedly with neighbouring countries and Western powers over election delays, alleged army abuses and cooperation with Russian mercenaries in its fight against an Islamist insurgency.

The West African country has deepened its Soviet-era ties to Russia as its relationship soured this year with its long-time ally and former colonial ruler, France.

“We discussed the support of the Russian Federation for Mali’s political transition and I praised the quality of our partnership, which respects the sovereignty of #Mali and the aspirations of its population,” Goita tweeted.

France announced in February it was pulling its troops out of Mali after nearly a decade there fighting insurgents, some with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have since spread across the Sahel region.

Fighters from the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked private military company, have been supporting the Malian army in its fight since late last year.

Reporting by Reuters; Additional reporting by Nellie Peyton in Dakar; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Potter

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