Alleged Wagner mercenaries in Mali. AFP
A Malian army unit accompanied by a "Russian advisor" struck an improvised explosive device near the town of Hombori, according to a military memo seen by AFP late Tuesday.
One Russian advisor died after being airlifted to the central town of Sevare, the Malian army memo said.
The death marks the first confirmed fatality of what in Mali are officially described as Russian military instructors.
The United States, France, and others say the instructors are operatives from the Russian private-security firm Wagner.
Mali's army-dominated government denies the claim.
An official at a hospital in Sevare, who asked not to be named, confirmed the death and said the Russian was in his 30s.
An elected official in central Mali, who also requested anonymity, said that he had "learned of the death of a Wagner agent".
Mali is ruled by a military junta that seized power in a coup in 2020.
It initially promised to restore civilian rule, but it ignored an earlier commitment to West Africa bloc ECOWAS to stage elections in February this year, prompting regional sanctions.
The junta's friendship with Russia has also worsened friction with France, a traditional ally.
France, which intervened in Mali in 2013, decided in February to withdraw its forces in the country after a decade-long fight against jihadists.
Vast swathes of Mali lie beyond government control due to the brutal conflict, which began in 2012 before spreading to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.