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Russian military instructors deploy in Niger – media

A Russian military cargo plane has brought a team of instructors and various equipment to assist the Nigerien army with counter-terrorism training, according to the West African nation’s media reports.

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The Russian instructors arrived in the country on Wednesday night, public broadcaster Radio Television du Niger (RTN) reported late Thursday, airing footage of a military plane unloading cargo.

“We are here to train the Nigerien army… to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger,” said a man in camouflage interviewed by RTN.

“We have a lot of experience in fighting terrorism. And we are here to share this experience with our friends,” another Russian specialist told Sputnik.

“The African corps here will be building relationships and jointly forming and training the Nigerien army,” he added. “We brought with us the educational and material base for the training of various specialists.”

READ MORE: African leader holds defense talks with Putin despite US concerns

The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to confirm the scope of the mission, but RTN claimed in a Facebook post that the instructors will also install an air-defense system in Niger.

Niger’s transitional leader, Abdourahamane Tchiani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin committed to coordinating efforts to combat terrorism in the Sahel region last month. According to the Kremlin, the issue was discussed when the West African nation’s leader called Putin to express solidarity with Moscow following a terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall.

Since taking power after the ouster of pro-Western President Mohamed Bazoum last year, the new leadership in Niamey has taken measures to sever ties with former partners, citing their failure to quell jihadist violence in the Sahel, which had been the goal of their engagement.

READ MORE: Washington working on way to keep troops in African state

France completed the withdrawal of its troops from Niger in December after Niamey ordered them to leave, accusing the former colonial power of internal meddling.

Washington, however, has ruled out disengagement from Niger for now, even after Niamey revoked an agreement with the US on March 16 that had allowed some 1,000 American troops and civilian contractors to operate in the landlocked nation. 

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