Russia denies claims of Wagner operating in Burkina Faso

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Moscow dismissed claims Thursday that Russian mercenary group Wagner is operating in Burkina Faso, while committing to strengthen its ties to the West African nation plagued by extremist violence.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian state news agency Ria Novosti that any “rumors” or “speculation” suggesting that a Russian private military company was working in the area were “unfounded.”

Videos have emerged on social media in recent weeks showing Russian mercenaries in Burkina Faso. Wagner, headed by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has not confirmed any presence in Burkina Faso.

In early February, Burkina Faso’s military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore denied Wagner mercenaries were in his country.

Moscow has also denied that Burkina Faso’s junta, which seized power in a coup last September, had requested Russian assistance.

Burkina Faso’s military rulers, like those in Mali, have fallen out with France, its traditional ally and former colonial ruler.

The junta demanded in January that France withdraw a force of 400 troops after 14 years and on Sunday announced that French army operations had officially ended.

Bogdanov said Thursday Russia intends to “actively participate in collective efforts to stabilize the situation” and “develop a multifaceted cooperation with Burkina Faso.”

“The training of national military personnel” by Russian counter-terrorism specialists is “of particular importance” for Burkina authorities he said.

Wagner has cultivated a growing footprint in Africa, establishing itself in recent years in the Central African Republic and Mali.

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