Russia's private Wagner Group denies it is operating in Sudan

Russia's private Wagner Group denies it is operating in Sudan
Russia's private military Wagner Group says it has nothing to do with the conflict currently raging in Sudan, amid strong speculation that it was linked to illicit gold mining in the country.
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Fighting has raged in Sudan for the past five days [Getty]

The Russian private military Wagner Group on Wednesday denied it was operating in Sudan and said it had nothing to do with the fighting raging in the country.

Western diplomats in Khartoum said in March 2022 that Wagner was involved in illicit gold mining in Sudan, among other activities. Sudan denied this was the case.

Russia has for decades been a major supplier of weapons to Sudan.

A company owned or operated by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin called M Invest and its subsidiary Meroe Gold act as a cover for Wagner in Sudan, according to the US treasury.

In 2017, when ousted President Omar al-Bashir was still in power, Sudan awarded M Invest concession agreements to explore gold mining sites in the country.

Shortly afterwards, Meroe signed a five-year deal with a Sudanese firm called Aswar, which appears to have been controlled by Sudanese military intelligence, to secure its position in the country's gold sector, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reported in November last year.

Wagner is believed by Western analysts to have dealt with General Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and is currently involved in bitter fighting with Sudan's military ruler General Abdul Fattah Burhan.

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Daglo is linked to gold mining operations in the country and Western analysts believe that Wagner is likely to back him and the RSF in their conflict with Burhan and the Sudanese army.

However on Wednesday, Wagner said that reports of its presence in Sudan were false.

"Due to the large number of inquiries from various foreign media about Sudan, most of which are provocative, we consider it necessary to inform everyone that Wagner staff have not been in Sudan for more than two years,"the group wrote on Telegram.

Wagner said it had not had contacts for a long time with either Daglo or Burhan.

Companies associated with Prigozhin have no financial interests in Sudan, it added, saying the conflict was a purely internal Sudanese affair.

Wagner mercenaries, which have in the past been deployed against insurgents in Mali and the Central African Republic, are currently spearheading attempts to capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

(Reuters, AFP, and The New Arab Staff)