His son and vice-president of the government, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, is seeking in Moscow to outline agreements on space and defence matters

Teodoro Obiang's Equatorial Guinea wants to send an astronaut into space with Russia's backing

PHOTO/Roscosmos - Durante su visita al Centro de Entrenamiento de Cosmonautas “Yuri Gagarin” de Moscú, el vicepresidente de Guinea Ecuatorial, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, recibe explicaciones del traje ruso Orlan para salir al espacio exterior
PHOTO/Roscosmos - During his visit to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Moscow, Equatorial Guinea's Vice-President Teodoro Nguema Obiang receives an explanation of the Russian Orlan suit for going into outer space

The Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, has been in Moscow since 11 September to strengthen bilateral relations in the fields of defence and security and to open a framework for cooperation in the space sphere.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang, who also holds the official post of "in charge of Defence and State Security", is the son of Teodoro Obiang, who has held the post of President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, and who visited the Russian capital at the beginning of November in order to exploit the rich oil and gas deposits that feed the national economy.

The Equatoguinean vice-president's visit to Moscow is an extension of the recent meeting between Vladimir Putin and Teodoro Obiang, and is aimed at outlining a series of agreements that are likely to be signed during the Russian president's visit to Malabo, the capital of the African country, next January.

PHOTO/Roscosmos- El vicepresidente de Guinea Ecuatorial ha expuesto a sus colegas rusos que su país tiene la intención de invertir en diferentes macroproyectos espaciales
PHOTO/Roscosmos - The vice-president of Equatorial Guinea has told his Russian colleagues that his country intends to invest in various macro space projects

At the head of a large official delegation, Vice-President Nguema Obiang met in Moscow with the Director General of the Russian Space Agency, Yuri Borisov, who accompanied him on his visit to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, located a few kilometres from the capital.

There, the general director of the institution since July 2021, Maxim Kharlamov, explained the exhaustive training process followed by the candidates selected to achieve the title of cosmonaut. According to Russian official sources, Nguema Obiang said he was "very impressed" by the facilities, acknowledged "how difficult" it is to prepare a person to fly into space and that "not everyone can become a cosmonaut".

PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - El vicepresidente Nguema Obiang ha sido invitado a convertirse en cosmonauta, pero siempre que supere las pruebas físicas y psicológicas a que deben someterse todos los aspirantes a cosmonautas
PHOTO/TsPK-Roscosmos - Vice President Nguema Obiang has been invited to become a cosmonaut, but only if he passes the physical and psychological tests that all aspiring cosmonauts must undergo

Training a cosmonaut and buying and launching a satellite

As a courtesy, Maxim Kharlamov suggested to Vice-President Nguema Obiang the possibility of "becoming the first national of a country in the Central African region to embark on a space journey", provided that he passes the physical and psychological tests that all aspiring cosmonauts must undergo.

The African delegation also held a working meeting with senior Roscosmos executives, in which Yuri Borisov presented the prospects for space exploration that Russia offers the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in a framework of bilateral cooperation. Also on the multilateral stage, Borisov offered Equatorial Guinea to join the International Lunar Science Station project, led by China and Russia.

An official communiqué from the Malabo government dated 13 December explains that the vice-president sees "great potential" in space cooperation with Russia and that Equatorial Guinea intends to "invest in different macro space projects". One in which Nguema Obiang has given "priority" status is the participation of an Equatoguinean in a "manned mission" and in the launch of an Equatorial Guinean observation or communications satellite.

PHOTO/Roscosmos - El director general del Centro de Entrenamiento de Cosmonautas, Maxim Kharlamov, explica a Teodoro Nguema Obiang la ropa interior termorreguladora que visten los cosmonautas para sus salidas al espacio exterior
PHOTO/Roscosmos - Maxim Kharlamov, Director General of the Cosmonaut Training Centre, explains to Teodoro Nguema Obiang the thermoregulating underwear worn by cosmonauts on their outer space trips

It clearly means that President Obiang, through Russia's mediation, intends to train and send one of his nationals into space. He also intends to acquire a dual-use observation satellite, both civilian and military, for defence and border security, as well as to monitor from space the country's oil and gas fields and the forests and waters under its jurisdiction.

The Malabo government is also interested in expanding its military cooperation with Russia, and the vice president met in Moscow with the deputy defence minister, General Alexander Fomin, who is in charge of cooperation with third countries. Vice-President Obiang told the Russian military authorities that his government wants to "revitalise" technological and military cooperation with Russia, which means making new purchases of weapons systems in the air-land and naval domains.

Equatorial Guinea's small armed forces have few and outdated weapons systems in their armies and navies. The equipment of its army consists of old T-55 tanks -3 units-, less than 40 BMP-1 and BTR-152 vehicles and a score of South African mine-protected transports.

PHOTO/Roscosmos - Acompañado por el director general de la Agencia Espacial de Rusia, Yuri Borisov (izquierda), Teodoro Nguema Obiang recorre las principales instalaciones y simuladores donde se adiestran los cosmonautas
PHOTO/Roscosmos - Accompanied by the Director General of the Russian Space Agency, Yuri Borisov (left), Teodoro Nguema Obiang tours the main facilities and simulators where cosmonauts are trained

Strengthen cooperation with Russia on the military front

The troops are armed with AKM rifles and RPG-7 grenade launchers, and the aviation has a very small number of aircraft and helicopters: four Sukhoi Su-25 fighters, one Ilyushin Il-76 transport, two transport helicopters - Kamov Ka-27 and Mil Mi-26 - and one Mil Mi-26 attack helicopter. Its naval assets are a Bulgarian-built frigate of 100 metres in length and 2,500 tons displacement, along with small units of Chinese, Ukrainian and Israeli origin.  

During President Teodoro Obiang's visit to Moscow last November, according to a Kremlin communiqué, the Equatorial Guinean president expressed to Vladimir Putin his desire to "strengthen" defence cooperation between the two countries. He called Moscow a "traditional and strategic partner" of Equatorial Guinea, which "contributed and fought so that African states could achieve independence".

PHOTO/Glavkosmos - El presidente Teodoro Obiang ha solicitado a Vladimir Putin la oportunidad de que Guinea Ecuatorial sea el país anfitrión de la próxima Cumbre Rusia-África
PHOTO/Glavkosmos - President Teodoro Obiang has asked Vladimir Putin for the opportunity for Equatorial Guinea to host the next Russia-Africa Summit

President Vladimir Putin put his emphasis on "expanding trade and economic ties" and expressed Russian companies' interest in working in Africa, and specifically in Equatorial Guinea, where Putin stressed that there are "great potential investment opportunities, especially in the context of natural resource extraction".

Teodoro Obiang responded that "if Russia promises to send its businessmen to help Africa develop, we can only say: let them come! Equatorial Guinea is happy to accept this offer". At the same time, he asked Vladimir Putin for the opportunity for Equatorial Guinea to host the next Russia-Africa Summit.

PHOTO/Kremlin - En su visita de noviembre, a Moscú, el presidente Teodoro Obiang manifestó a Vladimir Putin su deseo de “reforzar” la cooperación en materia de defensa entre ambas naciones, según un comunicado del Kremlin
PHOTO/Kremlin - During his November visit to Moscow, President Teodoro Obiang expressed to Vladimir Putin his desire to "strengthen" defence cooperation between the two nations, according to a Kremlin statement

Situated in the Gulf of Guinea, Equatorial Guinea has a population of 1.6 million people living in an area of 28,000 km², bordering Cameroon and Gabon. It is a country made up of a 26,000 km² mainland - Mbini, the former Rio Muni - and an island part, with the islands of Bioko - formerly Fernando Poo, with 2,017 km² - and the much smaller islands of Anobon and Corisco.

Belonging to the Spanish crown since the 19th century, both territories were declared Spanish provinces in 1959, and were granted independence by the Madrid government on 12 October 1968. Equatorial Guinea retains Spanish as its official language and has gone from being a poor country to a solvent one since the mid-1990s, when it began to exploit its significant oil and gas deposits.