Moscow has called recent ties with Paris “constructive” as former French colonies increasingly turn to Russian military contractors.
The Kremlin rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s charge that Russia is a destabilizing power in Africa as he cited the deployment of Moscow’s mercenary groups there.
“Russia is building friendly, constructive relations based on mutual respect and concern for each other’s problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded Friday.
“Our relations with all African countries are not directed – and cannot be directed – against third countries,” he told reporters.
Earlier on Friday, Macron criticized Russia’s deployment in Africa at the New Global Financing Pact summit in Paris. Many African leaders – including Chad, Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa – are attending the summit to rethink the international financial system.
The French leader said Moscow’s influence in the region is not good for the international community.
“It is a destabilizing force in Africa through private militias that come to hunt and abuse the civilian population,” Macron said in an interview with French media on the sidelines of the summit.
“Russia has by its own accord put itself in a situation where it no longer respects international law, essentially waging an imperial war against its neighbor Ukraine and becoming the sole colonial power of the 21st century,” he added.
Russia’s Wagner mercenary group and its business leader Yevgeny Prigozhin have been repeatedly sanctioned by the European Union for human rights abuses in Africa.
In 2020 Prigogine had his assets frozen in the European Union and was blacklisted on a visa for the deployment of Wagner Group fighters to war-torn Libya, a decision he unsuccessfully appealed.
The second Russia-Africa summit will be held in St. Petersburg at the end of July.
African countries have been badly hit by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has fueled inflation, particularly in grain. They are major importers of grains.
Moscow has gained influence in recent years in regions dominated by Paris for centuries, including Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Mali. France’s influence has shrunk due to the perceived inability of French troops to stop violence by armed groups in those countries. This led to the rise of anti-French sentiment in the former French colonies.
This situation has led to a war of words between Moscow and Paris over the past few years.
As French troops withdrew from northern Mali in April 2022, the French military said it had video footage of Russian mercenaries burying bodies near an army base in the region.
This May, the French parliament adopted a resolution calling on the EU to formally designate Wagner as a “terrorist group”.