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The Kremlin takes an African safari

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MOSCOW – Nearly two decades after the Soviet Union's influence evaporated, Russia is returning to Africa in force with aims of catching up to China and Western powers in the scramble for the continent's resources, markets, and political allegiances.

President Dmitry Medvedev and an entourage of 400 Russian businessmen and economic officials arrived in Nigeria Wednesday to sign a variety of oil, gas, and nuclear energy deals. This is the longest African tour by any Kremlin leader. The group visited Egypt Tuesday and will make stops in Angola and Namibia later this week.

A major purpose of the trip is to show the flag and proclaim Russia's return as a serious player on the global stage, analysts say.

"Russia's more active approach toward Africa is part of a more general assertiveness of Moscow around the world these days," says Vladimir Shubin, deputy director of the official Institute of Africa in Moscow.

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