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Claims of Russian Influence in Africa Reflect West's Neo-Colonial Approach: Russian Ambassador

© AFP 2023 / OLYMPIA DE MAISMONTA man holds a Russian flag during a protest to support the Burkina Faso President Captain Ibrahim Traore and to demand the departure of France's ambassador and military forces, in Ouagadougou, on January 20, 2023
A man holds a Russian flag during a protest to support the Burkina Faso President Captain Ibrahim Traore and to demand the departure of France's ambassador and military forces, in Ouagadougou, on January 20, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.03.2023
Against the backdrop of France's decreasing influence in its former African colonies, French President Emmanuel Macron earlier accused Russia of pursuing a "predatory project" on the continent in order "to hurt France."
France's statements on Russia's influence in Africa "reflect the neo-colonial approach of Western countries to cooperation with African states," Russian Ambassador to the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso (non-resident) Alexey Saltykov says in an interview with Sputnik.
The diplomat makes his statement when answering a question about France's claims that Russian activities are behind the country's deteriorating relations with countries in the Sahel, namely Burkina Faso and Mali.
The military governments of the two states ended accords on military cooperation with France, which subsequently withdrew it troops from Mali in 2022 and from Burkina Faso in 2023. The French forces were present in the countries under the pretext of combatting a terrorist insurgency that has been raging in the region since 2011.
This comes against the backdrop of anti-French protests in the Sahelian countries, with protesters accusing France of being unable to achieve the declared goal of countering terrorism and experts, as well as activists, noting that that France, a former colonial power that controlled a huge piece of Africa, uses its presence on the continent to protect its egoistic interests and not the security of Africans.
In his turn, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of pursuing a "predatory project" in Africa, noting that "a number of powers who want to spread their influence in Africa are doing this to hurt France, hurt its language, sow doubts, but above all pursue certain interests".
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According to Ambassador Saltykov, the reason behind France's deteriorating influence in Africa is that local people have started to doubt the benefits of cooperation with the former colonial power.

"As for France, I think the events that took place speak of shifts in the mass consciousness of Burkinabes, and not only of them, but also of other African countries," the Russian ambassador says, adding: "Under the influence of world events, Africans are beginning to understand more what France's policy was like, whether it was productive and useful in everything for bilateral cooperation."

Alexey Saltykov believes that "there should be a principled position of the Burkinabe leadership."
In his opinion, it is Burkina Faso that decides who it wants to cooperate with, as it is a sovereign state.

"But I don't think they have completely closed the door on France, they continue diplomatic relations. The president of the country, in particular, said that they would not want the policy of dominance to continue in cooperation with some foreign partner," the ambassador states.

He also adds that in line with the UN Charter, "there should not be a policy based on some kind of rules, prescribed by unknown countries," "secondly, no one saw these rules in their eyes," "thirdly, these rules change depending on the political situation, and it is natural that the leaders of states understand that they must rely primarily on the UN Charter, which is a universal document for building relationships."
As for the situation linked to the terrorist threat in the Sahel countries, the ambassador says "we understand that no state alone can cope with this problem now, as much coordination of efforts as possible is required."

"We have been adhering to this line for an extremely long time; in 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin came up with the initiative to create a universal mechanism on a global scale," he adds.

"Therefore, based on these fundamental principles, I think that Moscow should remain in contact with the African states," he sums up.
At the same time, Saltykov states that African problems should be solved by Africans themselves. This sentiment was recently expressed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said that "African problems" require "African solutions."
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However, Russia is ready to assist in this process, he adds.
Along with that, the ambassador elaborated on the Russian Embassy in Burkina Faso, which was closed in 1992 "due to financial circumstances."

"We should all be optimists, and I, as ambassador to Abidjan and partly to Burkina Faso, am also optimistic that [the embassy will reopen] after all, because it is in line with Russia's strategic course of developing relations with countries on the continent," Ambassador Saltykov states.

Moscow also expects that Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast will be represented by high-level delegations at the second Russia-Africa Summit, the ambassador says.
The first Russia-Africa Summit was held in October 2019 in the Russian city of Sochi, and the second is scheduled for July 2023 in St. Petersburg. According to the ambassador, the Russian side has already sent invitations to the leadership of both countries.
"We are proceeding from the fact that this issue is on the agenda, but since all decisions are taken at a rather late stage in African realities — closer to the actual holding of events — I think it is too early to talk about the composition of the Ivorian and Burkinabe delegations, but we expect that they will be represented at the highest level," Saltykov says.
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The current priority of Burkina Faso's interim president, Captain Ibrahim Traore, is to ensure security in the country, the diplomat underlines.
"The situation with terrorism in Burkina Faso is quite serious, and the central government is now doing its best to stabilize it so that it does not degenerate further. Since the beginning of November, several successful operations have been conducted to curb the spread of jihadist activity in the country. As the president himself said, the country needs him, he is personally in charge of the field operations," the Russian ambassador says.
In September 2022, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the then-leader of Burkina Faso's interim government who came to power through a coup earlier in 2022, was ousted by a group of military officers led by Traore in what became the second military takeover in the country in eight months.
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