Russia said on Wednesday the rebels fighting French and African troops in Mali are the same fighters the West armed in the revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

An Islamist alliance of al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and home-grown Malian groups captured northern Mali last year, armed with weapons seized from Libya after the fall of Gaddafi.

Russia backed a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention in Mali but is still bristling that its abstention from a U.N. vote over Libya in 2011 allowed NATO air strikes to help the rebels trying to topple the veteran leader.