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Russia and Niger pledge to strengthen military ties

Russia and Niger agreed to strengthen military cooperation on Tuesday, as the African country moves closer to Moscow following a military coup last year. Niger ended security agreements with the European Union and has embraced Russia as a fledgling defence partner after military leaders ousted the country’s elected president last year. Meanwhile, Russia has for years been courting African countries, seeking to establish its influence across the continent at the expense of the West. Nigerien Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine, who was installed by the military after the coup, led a delegation to the Russian capital on Tuesday for talks on political and military cooperation. Russia’s defence ministry said the two sides’ militaries had “agreed to intensify joint actions to stabilise the situation in the region,” in a statement published Tuesday. Niger’s new regime has denounced military cooperation with the West, shunning colonial ties with France in favour of Russia. Niger had previously been an important base for France’s military efforts to quell Islamist extremism stemming from Africa’s Sahel region. Russian defence officials also told Niger’s Defence Minister Salifou Modi on Tuesday that Moscow was ready to help “increase the combat readiness of Niger’s armed forces.” In a separate meeting, Prime Minister Zeine discussed economic, trade and investment relations with Russian officials. The visit comes after a Russian delegation went to Niger, which lies at the heart of Africa’s so-called “coup belt”, last December, also for military talks.

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