The Italian government has stated that it has no evidence of Russia’s involvement in the military coup in Niamey, the capital of Niger. In an interview with daily newspaper La Repubblica, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani emphasized that there is no information indicating Moscow’s participation in the Nigerien events or the preparation of the coup. Tajani went on to dismiss the protesters in Niger carrying photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin as being “more anti-French than anything else.”
The coup in Niger came as a surprise to both the United States and France, according to Tajani. He revealed that nobody, including these two countries, had any prior knowledge of the coup. Both the US and France have a significant military presence in Niger, with over 1,000 troops each and drone bases for counter-terrorism operations. Italy also has 350 soldiers currently stationed in Niger, who are currently remaining in their barracks, as confirmed by the foreign minister.
Tajani further highlighted that even the Nigerien authorities were blindsided by the coup. The Nigerien Prime Minister Uhumudu Mahamadou was in Rome for a UN food summit when the events unfolded. This suggests that the coup was planned discreetly and caught everyone off guard.
Regarding the Russian role in the region, Tajani noted that the alleged presence of Wagner Group members is a separate matter. He acknowledged that Russia has skillfully infiltrated the region for years. However, Italy favors diplomatic attempts to find a peaceful resolution and restore democracy. Tajani reiterated their opposition to any European military intervention and mentioned that his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, never discussed the possibility of intervention with him.
Moscow has condemned the coup in Niger, considering it a violation of the country’s constitution. The Russian government has called on all sides involved to refrain from violence. In response to the coup, ECOWAS, a Western-backed bloc of West African countries, has imposed sanctions on the junta in Niamey. Furthermore, they have threatened military intervention to restore President Mohamed Bazoum to power. But Mali and Burkina Faso have warned that such intervention would amount to a declaration of war against them as well.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the private military company Wagner Group, justified the events in Niger as a rebellion of the people against Western exploitation. He specifically pointed out the uranium shipments to France. Prigozhin argued that the Nigerien people have lived in fear for decades due to terrorist groups backed by the West and that this fear has been used as a justification for the deployment of foreign troops to Niger.
In conclusion, the Italian government has stated that it has no evidence of Russia’s involvement in the coup in Niger. The coup took both the US and France by surprise, and even the Nigerien authorities were caught off guard. Italy prefers diplomatic solutions to restore democracy in Niger and does not support European military intervention. Moscow has condemned the coup as a violation of the Nigerien constitution, and ECOWAS has imposed sanctions on the junta. Yevgeny Prigozhin has justified the events in Niger as a rebellion against Western exploitation. The situation in Niger remains complex and uncertain, with the potential for further regional implications.