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COTONOU: French President Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to Benin Wednesday, branded Russia “one of the last imperial colonial powers” for its invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia launched an offensive against Ukraine. It’s a territorial war, the likes of which we thought had disappeared from European soil. It’s a war from the early 20th, even the 19th century,” Macron said on the second leg of a trip to Africa to reset France’s relations with the continent, where many nations are former French colonies.

“I speak on a continent that has suffered colonial imperialism,” Macron said.

Delivering the verbal broadside at a press conference with Benin President Patrice Talon, Macron said “Russia is one of the last imperial colonial powers,” for it had decided to “invade a neighbouring country to defend its interests”.

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, sparking a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and sparked fears of a global food crisis over blocked grain exports.

Macron accused the Kremlin of launching “a new type of hybrid world war.”

“It decided that information, energy and food were military instruments placed at the service of an imperialist continental war against Ukraine,” he said.

Macron said he wanted to “describe what’s happening today in the baldest terms”.

He accused Russia of disruption through “disinformation”, describing it as “one of the countries to make the most forceful use of instruments of propaganda”. He referred specifically to the TV channels Russia Today and Sputnik.

Russia has cut back on gas deliveries to western Europe and Ukrainian grain has remained blocked in ports since the start of the war, driving a surge in global prices for energy and cereals.

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom slashed its gas exports to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 percent of its capacity, German authorities have said.

Ukraine, meanwhile, said it had restarted operations at its Black Sea ports, a key phase to resuming grain exports under a UN-backed deal.

The French leader is on a tour of three African countries — Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.

His swing coincides with an African tour by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In Cameroon on Tuesday, Macron said the archives on French colonial rule in Cameroon would be opened “in full” and asked historians to shed light on the period’s “painful moments”.

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