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Le Monde
Le Monde
18 Nov 2023

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What was an Ilyushin II-76 doing in Ouagadougou on Friday, November 10? Since his arrival at the head of Burkina Faso in September 2022, Captain Ibrahim Traoré has maintained a veil of secrecy over his alliances, but the landing of this Russian aircraft at the capital's Thomas Sankara airport, with some 20 soldiers on board, has cleared up some of the questions. Nine months after the end of French operations in Burkina Faso, the junta has entered into a new union with Vladimir Putin's Russia.

In recent weeks, the Burkinabe government has shown numerous signs of rapprochement with Moscow, in all kinds of fields: "Humanitarian aid, energy, nuclear power and culture," listed a press release from Burkina Faso's executive in October. In the middle of the month, the Russian agency Rosatom announced the construction of a civil nuclear power plant "to cover the energy needs of the Burkinabe population." On Tuesday, cooperation in the fight against the dengue epidemic raging in the country was highlighted. But it is above all in the military sector that Ouagadougou needs Moscow.

Three days before the arrival of the Ilyushin Il-76 airlifter on November 7, Burkina Faso's Minister of Defense Colonel Kassoum Coulibaly was in Moscow to meet his counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. Coulibaly welcomed the entry into "the practical phase" of defense cooperation between the two countries. The theoretical phase took place a few weeks earlier when a Russian delegation led by Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov was received by President Traoré in September. The Burkinabe president said: "Areas of cooperation were discussed, primarily in the military sector, including the training of Burkinabe soldiers and officers at all levels, in particular pilots in Russia."

The implementation of the alliance between the two countries has accelerated since Traoré met Putin at the Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg at the end of July. During his only trip abroad since taking power, the junta's leader made a name for himself with his diatribe against "imperialist" countries. With Russia, "we share the same history as the forgotten peoples of the world," said the 35-year-old captain, who was dressed in his fatigues and beret. The young head of state overplayed his closeness to Thomas Sankara, the Burkina Faso president in the 1980s who was dubbed "Africa's Che Guevara." Traoré said it was like being "with family," and assured Putin of the "support of the Burkinabe people and [his] government for the situation Russia is experiencing with the 'special operation'" in Ukraine.

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