Russia has blocked a request by the United Nations Security Council for "independent investigations" into the alleged massacre of several hundred civilians in Mali by the Malian army and Russian paramilitaries, diplomatic sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Saturday.
Mali's army announced on April 1 that it had killed 203 "militants" in Moura, in central Mali, during an operation in late March.
However, that announcement followed widely shared social media reports of a civilian massacre in the area. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged that Malian soldiers and foreign fighters executed 300 civilians there between March 27 and 31.
The request for a U.N. investigation had been included in a statement drafted by France and submitted for approval Friday by the Security Council.
But Russia, supported by China, "didn't see the need" for the text and considered it "premature," given that an investigation has been opened by the Malian authorities, one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.
On Friday, Russia congratulated Mali on an "important victory" against "terrorism," and it described as "disinformation" allegations about the massacre, as well as claims about the involvement of Russian mercenaries.
Bamako denies the presence of mercenaries from the Russian group Wagner in Mali, acknowledging only the presence of Russian "instructors" and "trainers" under a bilateral cooperation agreement with Moscow dating from the 1960s.
For more than a week, the U.N. has been demanding access to the area to investigate under its Security Council mandate, to no avail./AFP