Thousands of supporters of the military coup in Niger gathered at a Niamey stadium Sunday, when a deadline set by the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to return the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum to power is set to expire.

A delegation of members of the now-ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) arrived at the 30,000-seat stadium to cheers from supporters, many of whom carried in Russian flags and portraits of CNSP leaders.

The stadium, named after Seyni Kountche, who led Niger’s first coup d’etat in 1974, was almost full and the atmosphere was festive, journalists saw.

General Mohamed Toumba, one of the CNSP leaders, denounced in a speech those “lurking in the shadows” who were “plotting subversion” against “the forward march of Niger”.

“We are aware of their Machiavellian plan,” he said.

The demonstration coincides with the ultimatum set by ECOWAS on July 30 for the coup leaders to reinstate Bazoum.