The French Foreign Ministry has claimed that Russia is threatening the sovereignty of several African states and endangering their populations. The allegation came after Moscow commented on recent decisions by Mali and Burkina Faso to expel French troops from their territory.

At a press conference on Thursday, Quai d’Orsay spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre accused Russia of “neocolonial political involvement” in Africa and said Moscow’s “mercenaries” operating on the continent endangered the “security of the African population.”

The day before, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Paris was continuing to treat African countries “from the point of view of its colonial past.”

“French colonialism on the African continent has ended. The era when African countries had to ask someone, in particular France, before making a sovereign decision has ended,” Zakharova told Anadolu Agency at a press briefing in Moscow.

“We are not interested in what they say in Paris. We are interested in what each individual country says and the African Union says,” Zakharova added.

Last month, Paris grudgingly agreed to Burkina Faso’s demands that all French troops leave the country within 30 days. At a protest in Ouagadougou, demonstrators denounced the former colonial power and waved Russian flags. 

The neighboring Mali, also a former French colonial possession, expelled the French military mission six months prior, unhappy with the lack of success in the nine-year struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda affiliates. Paris has blamed Moscow for Bamako’s change of heart.

Another former colony of France, the Central African Republic, was the first to show Paris the door and invite the private Russian military company Wagner Group to help with its sectarian conflict. While Western powers have denounced Wagner as a threat to “human rights” in CAR, the government in Bangui says Russia “saved” the country.

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