Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his counterpart from Burkina Faso Kassoum Coulibaly met on Tuesday and agreed to strengthen defense ties, Moscow said.
Burkina’s military rulers have deepened cooperation with Moscow as the country looks to diversify its international allies following a coup last year, at the detriment of former colonial master France.
Russia, which has grown more isolated since its Ukraine offensive, has in recent months discussed greater military cooperation with Burkina Faso.
Moscow has also pledged to deliver free grain to the African country, which is one of the world’s poorest.
“Russian-Burkinabe relations are based solely on the principles of mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests, and in recent years they have gained positive dynamics,” Shoigu said, according to the ministry.
The meeting addressed “areas of cooperation (which) primarily concern the military domain, including the training of Burkinabe officer cadets and officers at all levels, including pilots in Russia.”
The ministry published footage of Shoigu and Coulibaly shaking hands and holding a roundtable meeting with officials. “I consider today’s meeting to be another step in developing our friendly relations,” Shoigu added.
It did not say if Russian military trainers would be sent to Burkina Faso. The visit could be a further sign that Moscow is seeking to shore up its influence in Africa in the wake of the death of mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who through the Wagner Group built up a network of interests across several African countries and beyond.
Burkina Faso last year experienced two military coups — both triggered in part by discontent at failures to stem a raging jihadist insurgency.
Since coming to power in September 2022, the ruling junta has distanced itself from France, its historic partner and former colonial power, and moved closer to Russia. In October, Burkina Faso signed a deal with Russia for the construction of a nuclear power plant to increase the energy supply to the Sahel country where less than a quarter of the population has access to electricity.
The junta-led West African country’s relations with Moscow have been in the spotlight since it booted out French troops in February, fuelling speculation it would deepen security ties with Russia like neighbouring Mali, where Russian Wagner mercenaries operate.
French soldiers who have been fighting Islamist militants in Burkina Faso were ordered to leave the country, dealing another blow to Europe’s presence in a region where Russia’s influence is growing.
France had about 400 special forces soldiers stationed in junta-ruled Burkina to battle an Islamist insurgency, but relations have deteriorated in recent months. Burkina Faso, like its neighbour Mali, is turning towards Russia as a partner.
Burkina Faso citizens have protested for months against the French military presence, accusing Paris of failing to tackle the terrorist threat, with some claiming that French troops were providing arms to the jihadists.
To augment it’s counter insurgency forces, the government of Burkina Faso recruited 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to help the army fight jihadists, announcing that its top priority would be to secure the nation’s territory, after the latest coup to rock the jihadist-torn Sahel state.