MOSCOW/BAMAKO - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mali's military ruler, Assimi Goita, on Sunday advocated a political settlement in Niger, where the coup leaders have accused France of planning a "military intervention".

The Kremlin said Putin and Goita had talked by telephone at Bamako's request. Mali has shifted sharply to Russia since back-to-back coups in 2020 and 2021, becoming one of the few nations to back Moscow at the United Nations over its invasion of Ukraine.

They discussed the situation in Niger and said the political crisis sparked by a coup d'état on 26 July should be resolved "through political and diplomatic means", the Kremlin said.

The comment came a day after Niger's military rulers accused former colonial power France of assembling troops, war materials and equipment in several neighbouring West African countries with a view to "military intervention" in the Sahel state.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened to intervene militarily in Niger over the coup, which ousted elected president Mohamed Bazoum.

ECOWAS leaders say they have to act after Niger became the fourth West African nation since 2020 to suffer a coup, following Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

All have been suspended from the bloc, as has Gabon, which underwent its own coup on 30 August.

Neighbouring Mali voiced support for Niger's new military rulers shortly after the July takeover and has on several occasions stated its opposition to a military intervention there.

The Kremlin said Putin and Goita also discussed cooperation between Russia and Mail on economic and commercial issues, and on "anti-terror" operations.

Goita thanked Russia for vetoing an attempt by the United Nations Security Council to keep a team of UN experts in Mali.

The experts had accused foreign forces – a veiled reference to the Russian mercenary group Wagner – of involvement in widespread abuses in Mali.