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Burkina Faso and Mali have warned that any military intervention in Niger to restore deposed President Mohamed Bazoum will be considered a “declaration of war against their two countries”.

The warning from Niger’s military-ruled neighbours came a day after West African leaders, supported by their Western partners, threatened to use “force” to reinstate the democratically elected Bazoum and slapped financial sanctions on the putschists.

In a joint statement, the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali warned that “any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali.”

They said the “disastrous consequences of a military intervention in Niger… could destabilise the entire region.”

They also said they “refuse to apply” the “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the people and authorities of Niger.”

This came as the Russian Federation also advised the Economic Community of West African States against the use of military intervention in the Niger crisis.

Russia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Alexei Shebarshin, advised the use of constitutional means in restoring peace to the West African country.

In a short response, the Russian ambassador said, “Russia opposes a military solution to the conflict, Russia has no plans to use its armed forces in Niger. The people of Niger should solve their problems independently in a constitutional manner without any resort to force or threat to use it.”

At an emergency summit on Sunday, ECOWAS demanded that Bazoum be reinstated within a week, failing which it would take “all measures” to restore constitutional order.

“Such measures may include the use of force for this effect,” it said in a statement.

The bloc also slapped financial sanctions on the junta leaders and the country, freezing “all commercial and financial transactions” between member states and Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, which often ranks last on the UN’s Human Development Index.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Femi Falana, also called on the authority of the Economic Community of West African States not to attack Niger Republic as a whole but impose sanctions on the military junta.

He said, “Apart from suspending Niger from ECOWAS, the leaders of the sub-regional body should refrain from attending international conferences with coup plotters as was recently witnessed during the recently concluded Russia-Africa Summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Falana made the calls in a paper titled “Unconstitutional Change of Governments: the Role of Bar Associations”, delivered today at a 2-day conference of the West African Bar Association in Accra, Ghana.

Niger’s junta on Monday accused France of seeking to “intervene militarily” to reinstate Bazoum, which French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna denied, according to AFP.

“It’s wrong,” Colonna told France’s BFM news channel of the allegation, adding it was still “possible” to return the president to power.

“And it’s necessary because destabilisation is perilous for Niger and its neighbours,” she said Monday evening.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday vowed “immediate and uncompromising” action if French citizens or interests were attacked, after thousands rallied outside the French embassy in Niamey. Some tried to enter the compound but were dispersed by tear gas.

Russia has called for the swift return of “the rule of law” and “restraint from all parties” in Niger.

Macron has spoken to Bazoum several times as well as to regional leaders, the presidential palace in Paris said.

Meanwhile, Italy’s foreign minister on Tuesday said the government would arrange a special flight to repatriate nationals from Niamey, the capital of Niger, after a military takeover took place in the African state.

“The Italian government has decided to offer our fellow citizens in Niamey the chance to leave the city on a special flight to Italy,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani posted on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

In remarks sent to Reuters via his office, Tajani said the Italian embassy remained open and the ambassador was returning to Niger from Rome where she went for the U.N. Food Systems summit last week.

Also, France prepared to evacuate hundreds of French and European citizens from Niger on Tuesday, a day after neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso said any outside intervention to restore the ousted government would be seen as a declaration of war, a report by global news agency, Reuters said on Tuesday.

Bazoum — a Western ally whose election just over two years ago marked Niger’s first peaceful transition of power since independence from France in 1960 — was toppled on July 26 by the elite Presidential Guard.

In Mali, a 2020 putsch led to a bust-up with France, which last year withdrew its troops as the junta brought in Russian paramilitaries.

France also quit Burkina Faso after two coups last year brought in a junta that adopted a nationalist line.

The withdrawals prompted France to reconfigure its decade-long anti-jihadist strategy in the Sahel, concentrating on Niger, where it fields 1,500 troops with a major air base near Niamey.

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