Russian President Vladimir Putin has engaged in a telephone conversation with Mali’s military leader, Assimi Goita, discussing the volatile situation in Niger following the recent coup that unseated democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26th.
Putin emphasized the necessity of achieving a peaceful resolution to ensure stability in the Sahel region. Goita shared this insight on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“According to a statement from the Kremlin, the call was initiated by Mali, focusing on the ongoing situation in the Sahara-Sahel region. Both parties stressed the paramount importance of resolving the crisis in Niger exclusively through diplomatic and political means”.
“Niger holds strategic significance for major global players such as the United States, China, Europe, and Russia due to its valuable uranium and oil resources. Additionally, it serves as a key hub for foreign forces engaged in counterinsurgency efforts against armed groups in the area”.
“The conversation between the leaders could raise concerns among Western nations apprehensive about Russia’s growing influence in the Sahel”.
“Despite calls from Western powers and democratic African governments for the coup leaders to reinstate President Bazoum, who has been detained since July 26th, the coup leaders have firmly rejected these appeals and any attempts at negotiation”.
“In response to the situation, West African army chiefs will convene in Ghana over Thursday and Friday to prepare for a potential military intervention. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the main regional bloc, has threatened such action if diplomatic efforts fail.”
“Any military intervention carries the risk of further destabilizing the already struggling Sahel region, which has been plagued by conflicts involving groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, leading to mass displacements and a dire humanitarian crisis”.
“Over the past three years, Russian influence in the Sahel has increased, while that of Western powers has diminished due to a series of coups. Military leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso have expelled French troops, their former colonial power, and deepened their connections with Moscow. In Mali, the army government even enlisted mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, a move that has drawn criticism for alleged human rights abuses”.
Under ousted President Bazoum, Niger maintained alliances with Western nations. Countries like the United States, France, Germany, and Italy had stationed troops in Niger based on agreements with the civilian government. Putin has previously advocated for a return to constitutional order in Niger, while Wagner Group’s Yevgeny Prigozhin welcomed the coup and offered assistance.
Since the coup, support for Russia has gained momentum in Niger. Proponents have displayed Russian flags during rallies and called for disengagement from France. The coup leaders have revoked numerous military agreements with France, although Paris has dismissed their legitimacy.