Thousands of people backing the coup in Niger marched through the streets of the capital denouncing France, the country’s former colonial power, waving Russian flags, and setting a door at the French Embassy ablaze on Sunday before the army broke up the crowd.
Demonstrators in Niger are openly resentful of France, and Russia is seen by some as a powerful alternative. The nature of Russia’s involvement in the rallies, if any, isn’t clear but some protesters have carried Russian flags, along with signs reading “Down with France” and supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian mercenary group Wagner is operating in neighboring Mali, and under Putin Russia has expanded its influence in West Africa. The new junta’s leaders have not said whether they intend to ally themselves with Moscow or stick with Niger’s Western partners.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that attacks on France and its interests would not be tolerated and anyone who attacks French citizens will see an immediate response.