Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, recently completed a tour of Africa, which was aimed at improving relationships and expanding Russia’s influence at a time when the West is trying to isolate the country due to its war on Ukraine. During his visit, Lavrov met with Sudan’s military leaders to discuss improving cooperation between the two countries, but no further details were provided.
Lavrov acknowledged the presence of Russian mining companies in Sudan, which are primarily involved in the development of the country’s mineral resources. One such company, Wagner Group, is a military contractor owned by an oligarch who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has a significant presence in Sudan’s remote provinces. The Biden administration recently expanded U.S. sanctions against Wagner Group and its affiliates due to their role in the war in Ukraine and mercenary activities in Africa.
However, when asked about the group, Lavrov stated that private Russian companies in Africa operate at the request of African governments, including the Central African Republic. These companies, he said, are contributing to the normalization of the situation in the region where terrorist gangs are still active.
Lavrov’s visit comes as Sudan’s military leaders are in talks with political forces in the country to reinstate a civilian government after the October 2021 military coup. The coup disrupted Sudan’s short-lived democratic transition and has left the country in a political and economic crisis.
Despite the unstable situation in Sudan, Lavrov’s visit underscores Russia’s growing influence in Africa, particularly evident in Burkina Faso, where protesters recently waved Russian flags in the streets while condemning France and the Economic Community of West African States.