Moscow calls ties ‘constructive’ in latest back-and-forth with Paris as former French colonies increasingly turn to Russian military contractors.
The Kremlin has rejected allegations by French President Emmanuel Macron that Russia is a destabilising force in Africa as he cited Moscow’s deployment of mercenary groups there.
“Russia is developing friendly, constructive relations based on mutual respect and concern for each other’s problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded on Friday.
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“Our relations with all African countries are not directed – and cannot be directed – against third countries,” he told reporters.
Macron earlier on Friday criticised Russian deployments in Africa at the New Global Financing Pact summit in Paris. Many African leaders – including those from Chad, Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa – are attending the summit seeking to overhaul the international financial system.
The French leader said Moscow’s influence in the region is not beneficial for the international community.
“This is a destabilising force in Africa through private militias who come to prey on and commit abuses on civilian populations,” Macron said in an interview with French media on the sidelines of the summit.
“Russia on its own accord has put itself in a situation in which it no longer respects international law, becoming basically one of the only colonial powers of the 21st century by waging an empire war against its neighbour Ukraine,” he added.
Russia’s Wagner mercenary group and its businessman leader Yevgeny Prigozhin have been repeatedly sanctioned by the European Union, including for human rights abuses in Africa.
Prigozhin had his assets in the European Union frozen in 2020 and was placed on a visa blacklist over the deployment of Wagner Group fighters to war-torn Libya, a decision he unsuccessfully appealed.
A second Russia-Africa summit is to be held in St Petersburg at the end of July.
African countries have been badly hit by the inflationary surge triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine, especially in cereals. They are major importers of grain.
Moscow has gained influence in recent years in areas where Paris had held sway for centuries, including Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Mali. France’s clout has shrunk due to the perceived inability of French troops to halt violence by armed groups in those countries. It has also led to a rise in anti-French sentiment in the former French colonies.
The situation has led to a war of words between Moscow and Paris in the past couple of years.
In April 2022 as French troops exited northern Mali, the French military said it had video footage of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near an army base in the area.
This May, the French Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the EU to formally label Wagner a “terror group”.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES