Russia has warned that military action against the coup leaders in Niger would lead to a “protracted confrontation”.
The warning came after the West African bloc Ecowas approved a “standby force” in response to the military takeover in Niger. The US has also backed efforts to restore Niger’s deposed leader Mohamed Bazoum.
Moscow has not formally backed the coup, but the collapse of Niger’s democracy risks pitting Russia against the West in a proxy stand-off. Both France and the US operate military bases in Niger, which have been used to launch operations against jihadist groups present in the wider region.
Supporters of the military junta have called on Western nations to leave the country and voiced support for Russia. On Friday, protesters were seen chanting “down with France, down with Ecowas” at a French base on the outskirts of the capital city Niamey. Some were carrying Russian flags, AFP reported, and voiced support for Abdourahamane Tiani, the general now running the country.
In a statement issued on Friday, Russia’s foreign ministry warned other West African nations not to send troops into Niger. It said: “We believe that a military solution to the crisis in Niger could lead to a protracted confrontation in that African country, and to a sharp destabilisation of the situation in the Sahara-Sahel region as a whole.”
Military officials from Ecowas countries are reportedly set to meet on Saturday to draft plans for a military intervention. The bloc has said it remains open to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu said on Thursday: “No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort.”
The situation in Niger is a complex one, with a number of different actors involved. It remains to be seen how the crisis will be resolved, but it is clear that Russia is playing a significant role in the events unfolding.