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Vladimir Putin’s sinister new 'charm offensive' front in his war against Britain

NewsVladimir Putin’s sinister new 'charm offensive' front in his war against Britain

The UK must fight back against Vladimir Putin’s “charm offensive” as he tries to lure African leaders to his anti-Western alliance by “amplifying messages related to British colonialism”, an expert in democracy has said.

The second and final day of Putin’s Russia-Africa summit takes place on Friday (July 28) and while the forum is unlikely to yield serious results, experts believe it is part of a wider campaign to attract countries on the southern continent away from the West.

Ivana Stradner, a research fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Russia, accused Putin of waging an “information war” and urged Britain to defend against this attack.

She called on London to “defuse the Kremlin’s information operations” and “give Moscow a taste of its own medicine”.

While Russia claims to be an ally of the African continent and routinely references the colonial past of Britain in the region, it fails to acknowledge its own misgivings, she said, and Britain must remind Africa of the truth.

Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs published a text in April on “British historical and international legal responsibility for colonial and post-colonial crimes”.

The Kremlin accused the UK of “historical amnesia” and called for an investigation into British “colonial crimes”.

Ms Stradner said Russia was publishing this report to “amplify messages related to colonialism and call for the dissolution of the Commonwealth”.

She also highlighted the “sordid history of Russian colonialism”, which dates back to the 19th century, as evidence that the reasons for the report on Britain ostensibly related to informational misdirection.

Ms Stradner, writing for the Telegraph, also reported that “Russia has for years been using social media platforms, influencers, and propaganda outlets such as RT and Sputnik to shape narratives”.

She cited a foreign affairs ministry announcement last week that Sputnik Africa was finally available on smartphones as an app for “all those tired of the one-sided and biased Western-centred coverage of all things Africa”.

She said the UK must counter this narrative and fight to prevent swaths of Africa aligning themselves with Russia.

But while it is true Russia has been operating disinformation campaigns, and the Wagner Group, through direct Kremlin funding, is increasing its presence across the Sahel region (West Africa), other experts believe that Putin’s tactics are not working.

Charles Ray, a former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, told Express.co.uk the fact that so few African leaders turned up to the summit in St Petersburg this week is evidence that they see beyond the disinformation.

“It’s likely that many African leaders can read the tea leaves,” he said, “and realise that for all Putin’s charm offensive, the war in Ukraine and international sanctions severely constrain Putin’s ability to really help them.”

He added that with the exception of autocratic rulers and military juntas who need Russia, as well as the Wagner Group, to cling to power, such as those in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, “many in Africa are beginning to see the downsides of allying too closely with Russia”.

Russia’s attempts to hark back to the British ills of colonialism may be in vain, it seems, since much of Africa is not biting.

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