Russia reopens embassy in Burkina Faso

Source: BBC 

Russia has reopened its embassy in Burkina Faso after it was shut more than 30 years ago, officials have said.

Burkina Faso was a close ally of former colonial power France, but has pivoted towards Russia since the military seized power in a coup in 2022. 

The junta has expelled French diplomats and has shut France’s military base in the country.

At the same time, it has been strengthening military and diplomatic ties with Russia.

France had condemned the coup in Burkina Faso, as well as in neighbouring Mali and Niger. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to reopen the embassy during the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg in July.

The embassy was closed in 1992 as Moscow reduced its involvement in Africa following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

The embassy was reopened at a ceremony in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, Russia’s state-owned news agency Tass reported. 

Russia has not yet named the head of the mission. 

Russia’s ambassador to Ivory Coast, Alexei Saltykov, said he would head it until Mr Putin made an appointment, AFP news agency reports.

He described the West African state as “an old partner with whom we have solid and friendly ties”.

Under Mr Putin, Russia has made a huge push in recent years to regain influence in Africa.

Burkina Faso’s Defence Minister, Col Kassoum Coulibaly, held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow last month, in the latest meeting between military officials from the two countries.

Col Coulibaly said the talks had reached a “practical phase” as Burkina Faso’s army tried to strengthen its capabilities. 

Along with Mali and Niger, Burkina Faso has been battling an Islamist insurgency.

Mali’s junta has called in Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to help fight the militants while expelling French troops.

Burkina Faso’s junta has denied allegations, made last year by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, that it too has brought in Wagner.

In other areas of co-operation, Burkina Faso signed a deal with Russia in July for the construction of a nuclear power plant to increase its energy supply.

Less than a quarter of the country’s population has access to electricity. 

Last month, Russia also sent a team of doctors to help Burkina Faso deal with deadly outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya.

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