Russia’s foreign ministry has confirmed that “private security firms” are indeed working in Sudan, but spokeswoman Maria Zakharova downplayed their role in ongoing Sudan protests as irresponsible reporting on the part of Western news outlets.
“We are informed that some employees of Russian private security firms, who have no relation to the Russian government authorities, are indeed working in Sudan,” Zakharova said during a weekly briefing. “But their functions are limited to personnel training in the interests of the Republic of Sudan’s security agencies.”
The Russian acknowledgment followed reports earlier this month that Russian mercenaries were seen in Khartoum as the government of President Omar al-Bashir continued a brutal crackdown on protesters angered by economic stresses and demanding political change.
The Sudan Tribune, an independent news outlet based in Paris, reported that an unnamed contact with Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) confirmed the Russian Wagner Group is working with the agency.
The Russian presence on the African continent came under close scrutiny in August 2018 when three journalists died in the Central African Republic while investigating the role of Russian mercenaries in the CAR for Russian exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his media outlet. His Justice for Journalists group has asked the United Nations human rights agency and MINUSCA, the UN mission in CAR, to conduct an independent investigation into the killings.
The protests in Sudan continue, with an uptick last week in demonstrations that now attract Sudanese professionals as well as university students and activists. The official death toll from protest actions is at 29, but activists say the number is likely higher.
The United States said last week it is “concerned about the increasing number of arrests and detentions, as well as the escalating number of people injured and killed, following four weeks of protests across Sudan.”
Returned politician Sadiq al-Mahdi, head of the Umma party, said Friday that there’s been progress on an opposition roadmap for transition once Bashir is removed from office. Bashir, who heads to Egypt Sunday, has said he’s open to reforms but he’s given no sign he intends to leave office.
Image: Sudan Change Now file