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Burkina Faso Leader Discusses Military Cooperation with Russian Delegation

In this photo captured from video, Burkina Faso junta leader Ibrahim Traore, is seen greeting Russian military delegation led by Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in Ouagadougou on Thursday, August 31, 2023.

OUAGADOUGOU — The Burkina Faso presidency said Thursday it held talks with a Russian delegation in the capital Ouagadougou where interim President Ibrahim Traore discussed a possible military cooperation, among other issues.

The visit, led by Russian deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, was a follow-up to talks between Traore and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg in July.

"Military cooperation, technical military cooperation but also cooperation in the field of the economy, in the field of nuclear energy, are all questions," he said.

A statement from the Burkina presidency did not say if Russian military trainers would be dispatched to Burkina Faso.

Following the meeting, Yevkurov said training for Burkinabe cadets, officers and pilots in Russia, as well as economic and nuclear energy assistance, were part of the discussions held.

"We will do our best to help you develop in all these spheres. I have already reminded your president of this. In the field of military cooperation, we will discuss the training format of your cadets and officers of different levels, including pilots in our country."

Relations between the junta-led West African state and Moscow have been in the spotlight since it chased out French troops in February. This has fueled speculation that the junta would deepen security ties with the Kremlin like neighboring Mali, where the Russian Wagner mercenary group operates.

The visit of the Russian delegation could further sign that Moscow is seeking to strengthen its influence in Africa after the death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who through the mercenary group established a network of interests across several countries and beyond.

Even as Burkina Faso is seeking military cooperation with Russia, it has approved a bill authorizing the dispatch of troops to neighboring Niger. The latter is facing threat of a possible military intervention to restore a civilian-led rule after its July 26 coup that saw the ouster of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

The draft law was approved in a meeting of Burkina Faso’s military-dominated government, according to a statement cited by French news agency, Agence France-Press.

It gave no details about the deployment of the force but said these had been determined "by joint agreement" between the two countries.

Some information in this report was sourced from AFP.