The Kremlin said on Monday that the situation in Niger was “cause for serious concern” after the country’s president was ousted in a coup that was condemned by much of the world but welcomed by Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has extensive interests in Africa.
In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia called for all sides in Niger to show restraint, and for the fastest possible return to legal order.
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Meanwhile, Prigozhin appeared to show support for the coup in Niger even as hundreds of pro-military supporters in Niamey went on the streets, brandishing Russian flags.
A voice message on Telegram app channels associated with Wagner, which was said to be Prigozhin, did not claim involvement in the coup but described it as a moment of long-overdue liberation from Western colonisers and made what looked like a pitch for his fighters to help keep order.
“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers. With colonisers who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago,” said the message, posted on Thursday evening.
The speaker had the same distinctive intonation and turn of phrase in Russian as the Wagner boss, although Reuters news agency was not able to confirm with certainty that it was him.