Emmanuel Macron accuses Russia of feeding disinformation in Africa

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Emmanuel Macron has accused Russia of feeding disinformation to further its “predatory project” in Africa, where France has had military setbacks.

In an interview with TV5 Monde on the sidelines of a conference of Francophone nations in Tunisia, he said there was a “predatory project” pushing disinformation into African countries, which was “a political project financed by Russia, sometimes others”.

“A number of powers, who want to spread their influence in Africa, are doing this to hurt France, hurt its language, sow doubts, but above all pursue certain interests,” the French president said.

Earlier this month, Macron formally announced the withdrawal of French troops from Mali, ending an eight-year counter-terrorism mission in the west African country.

France pulled its troops out after Mali’s military took power in a 2020 coup amid a breakdown of relations. The military leaders subsequently invited Russia’s Kremlin-linked Wagner Group to help fight Islamist militants, and they cut ties with France.

Western official have been increasingly concerned about Russian mercenaries in Mali, as allegations have emerged that fighters for the Wagner Group, a network of private companies run by a close ally of the Kremlin, were involved in massacres of several hundred civilians.

Russia has rejected the claims, while the businessman believed by the EU to be behind the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, called the reports “fakes, outright lies and … falsification”. Speaking to the Guardian in May, he said he had nothing to do with the Wagner Group, although in September Prigozhin admitted he had founded the “Wagner battalion”.

The EU imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group and eight of its key people last year, citing its role in serious human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings, as well as destabilising activities in countries including Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Central African Republic. The EU said the group was also “spreading its malign influence elsewhere, notably in the Sahel region”.

Russian mercenaries working for Wagner were also said to be behind a series of deadly attacks on mines in the lawless border zone between Sudan and Central African Republic, as well as human rights abuses.

“You only have to look at what’s going on in Central African Republic or elsewhere to see that the Russian project under way there, when France is pushed aside, is a project of predation,” Macron said.

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