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Russia will increase the number of military instructors in Burkina Faso, foreign minister says

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Russia will increase the number of military instructors in Burkina Faso, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday during a trip to the West African nation.

“Russian instructors are working here, and their number will increase; at the same time, we are training members of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies of Burkina Faso in the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said in the capital city of Ouagadougou. “Here, Russian instructors are working; their number will increase.”

Russia furthermore intends to supply Burkina Faso with military products to strengthen the country’s defense capability, he said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday posted a photo of Lavrov in Ouagadougou, noting that he had been received by acting President Ibrahim Traoré. Lavrov was accompanied on the trip by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yevkurov.

Burkina Faso is currently under military rule after a junta staged a coup d’état in July 2022. Its junta, headed by Traoré, has said it is prioritizing building up security amid an ongoing and deadly internal conflict.

Violence-related deaths in Burkina Faso doubled last year, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

So far in 2024, hundreds of civilians have already been killed in attacks this year, including around 170 in three villages in March, and approximately 30 in separate mosque and church attacks in February.

Engulfed in violence, Burkina Faso has been named the world’s most neglected displacement crisis for the second year, by the NRC. In 2024, 6.3 million people in the country will need humanitarian assistance, the aid organization said, with over two million people internally displaced.

US officials have warned for years now that both Russia and China are working to build influence in Africa. In 2019, the former head of US Africa Command, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser also said that Russia was using mercenaries and arms sales to gain access to natural resources in Africa.

Isolated from much of the world due to its invasion of Ukraine, Russia appears to be renewing overtures in the continent. In early March of this year, Africa Command again warned Congress that Russia was aggressively working to expand its footing in Africa, and that several countries were “at the tipping point” of falling under its influence.

In his comments this week, Lavrov also thanked Burkinabe leaders for their “effective assistance in resolving issues that allowed us to resume the activities of our embassy in Ouagadougou.”

“We are implementing a program to resume the activities of Russian diplomatic missions in Africa. Burkina Faso was the first country to do this quickly and effectively,” he said.

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