SECTIONS

Sudan's foreign ministry denies presence of Russian Wagner Group

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Deputy Head of the Sudan Transitional Military Council, attends the signing ceremony of the agreement on peace and ceasefire in Juba, South Sudan October 21, 2019. [Reuters]

Sudan's foreign ministry on Tuesday denied the presence of Russian private military contractor Wagner Group in the country, in response to a statement by Western diplomats.

Representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and Norway wrote in a piece published in a Sudanese newspaper on Monday that the mercenary group with ties to Moscow "spreads disinformation on social media and engages in illicit activities connected to gold mining."

The Sudanese statement comes after one of Sudan's military leaders paid a high-profile visit to Russia on the eve of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Sudan's foreign ministry accused the diplomats of trying to interfere in Sudanese affairs and of dragging the country "arbitrarily" into the Ukraine conflict.

"They alleged that the Russian Wagner security company was present in Sudan and carrying out training, mining, and other illegal activities... which the government of Sudan denies completely," the statement said.

Wagner Group has been tied by U.S. authorities to Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who denies links to the company.

In 2020, the United States sanctioned M Invest and its subsidiary Meroe Gold which it said were controlled by Prigozhin and operating in Sudan.

A U.S. Treasury announcement at the time alleged that M Invest was a cover for Wagner forces in the country, helped develop plans to suppress protesters including through social media disinformation, and was awarded gold concessions.

In December 2020 and May 2021, Facebook took down accounts it linked to the officially defunct Internet Research Agency, also linked by U.S. authorities to Prigozhin, that researchers say spread content supportive of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Dagalo, who helped lead an October coup that ended a civilian-military power-sharing arrangement, met high-level Russian officials in Moscow on a trip that began on the eve of the invasion of Ukraine.

The following week, he said that Sudan was open to an agreement on a naval base with Russia or any other country.