The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum has denied that the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group is operating in Sudan. The ministry issued its denial after diplomats from Norway, Britain and the US claimed that the group is involved in “illegal activities relating to gold mining” in the country.

“The group’s activities threaten the proper administration and respect of the rule of law, the two goals that the Sudanese people have been struggling to achieve since the beginning of the revolution,” added the diplomats.

In response, the foreign ministry accused the Western officials of “attempting to interfere in Sudanese affairs, and to embroil the country in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine in a haphazard and arbitrary manner.” It denied “absolutely” the presence of Wagner personnel and their “carrying out of training, mining and other missions against the rule of law and governance.”

During the rule of former president Omar al-Bashir, Russia was the only party that provided his government with weapons despite an international boycott. In 2017, the European Council on Foreign Relations revealed that Al-Bashir and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed agreements to mine for gold, and negotiated the construction of a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions in July 2020 on Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group. Washington accused him of “exploiting the natural resources of Sudan for personal benefit.”

The official Number Two in the Ruling Military Council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemetti, visited Moscow last month on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.