Russian military instructors and equipment arrive in Niger

The Tele Sahel channel showed the arrival of a Russian plane carrying "state-of-the-art military equipment" and "military instructors from the Russian Ministry of Defence" 
Manifestantes se reúnen en apoyo de los soldados golpistas en la capital Niamey, Níger 30 de julio de 2023. Los carteles dicen: Larga vida a Níger, larga vida a Rusia, Francia debe irse
Protesters rally in support of the coup soldiers in the capital Niamey, Niger July 30, 2023 - REUTERS/ BALIMA BOUREIMA

Niger received Russian military instructors and equipment this week as part of strengthening security cooperation between the two countries, the country's state television announced late on Thursday. 

Niger's military government agreed in January to step up military cooperation with Russia, after expelling French troops (a colonial power) deployed to fight jihadists in the Sahel region. 

The Tele Sahel channel showed the arrival of a Russian plane with "state-of-the-art military equipment" and "military instructors from the Russian Ministry of Defence" on Wednesday evening in Niamey, the capital. 

Russia is to "install an air defence system" capable of "guaranteeing total control of our airspace," said Tele Sahel. 

Russian military instructors, whose number was not specified, will "provide quality training" to the Nigerian military "for the effective use of such a system," state television said. 

The head of Niger's military government, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 26 March. 

The two leaders discussed security cooperation as well as "global strategic cooperation" against "current threats", officials said at the time, without elaborating. 

Esta captura de pantalla de vídeo obtenida por AFP de ORTN - Télé Sahel el 28 de julio de 2023 muestra al general Abdourahamane Tchiani, nuevo hombre fuerte de Níger, leyendo una declaración como "presidente del Consejo Nacional de Salvaguarda de la Patria". Tras Mali y Burkina Faso, Níger, hasta ahora aliado de los países occidentales, se ha convertido en el tercer país del Sahel, minado por los ataques de grupos vinculados al Estado Islámico y Al Qaeda, que sufre un golpe de Estado desde 2020.
General Abdourahamane Tchiani, Niger's new strongman - AFP/ORTN

Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, was one of the main allies of Western powers in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel. 

But after the military coup of July 2023, which overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum, Niger's junta reoriented its foreign policy, and forged closer ties with Moscow. 

PHOTO/AFP - Varios simpatizantes ondean banderas rusas y una pancarta con un lema contra Francia mientras se manifiestan en apoyo de la junta nigerina en Niamey el 30 de julio de 2023
Supporters wave Russian flags and a banner with an anti-France slogan as they rally in support of the Niger junta in Niamey on July 30, 2023 - PHOTO/AFP

Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, also ruled by military leaders following coups, have embarked on a similar path, moving closer to Russia while distancing themselves from Western powers and international bodies such as the Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

The US still has some 1,000 troops deployed in Niger, although their movements have been limited since the coup and Washington has reduced aid to the government.