Thousands of supporters of the junta that took over Niger in a coup earlier this week marched Sunday through the streets of the capital, Niamey, waving Russian flags, chanting the name of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin and forcefully denouncing former colonial master France.
The protesters marched through the city to the French Embassy, where a door was lit on fire, according to someone who was at the embassy when it happened and videos seen by The AP.
Black smoke could be seen rising from across the city. The Nigerien army broke up the crowd of the protesters.
Russian mercenary group Wagner is already operating in neighboring Mali, and Putin would like to expand his country’s influence in the region.
However, it is unclear yet whether the new junta leaders will move toward Moscow or stick with Niger’s Western partners.
On Sunday at an emergency meeting in Abuja, by the Economic Community of West African States, headed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said it was suspending relations with Niger and authorized the use of force if the president, Mohamed Bazoum, was not reinstated within a week.