Russia is a "danger" and will mine the instability in coup-hit Niger and elsewhere in the Sahel region for "new colonisation" opportunities, according to Italy's foreign minister, Antonio Tajani.
"Russia is a danger. It's not behind the coup in Niger but will exploit the unstable situation for new colonisation prospects," Tajani said Thursday on the sidelines of a European Union foreign ministers meeting in Toledo, Spain.
"China will do the same, but Russia poses a big danger at the moment, also through its Wagner (mercenary) group, which operates in a number of African states," Tajani claimed.
One of the generals who seized power in Niger on 26 July, Salifou Mody, is understood to have travelled to neighbouring Mali soon after the coup to make contact with a Wagner representative there.
Niger’s coup leaders, and since Wednesday Gabon's, have been following the playbook of Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso, which are also run by a military junta.
Mali is among several African countries where the Wagner group is known to operate and where human rights groups have accused its mercenaries of deadly abuses.