Sudan - Russia Relations
Russia is considered as a key ally of the Sudanese government against Western pressure. The Kremlin is not disturbed by the fact that Sudan’s president Bashir was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide. Moscow has become increasingly interested in Sudan. In 2015, Russian engineers discovered large gold deposits, which made it possible for the country to sign the biggest investment deal in its history.
Observers estimate that about 175 Russian private military contractors [PMCs] are in the Central African Republic, and at least 300 are in Sudan. Private military contractors from Russia have, in recent years, stepped into a pivotal role in central Africa, including Sudan. Working closely with local governments, PMCs are providing security, gathering intelligence and training local armies. In Sudan, they’re guarding gold, diamond and uranium mines. Moscow has downplayed the groups’ roles and insists that they act independently of the Kremlin’s wishes. But experts say the contractors have close ties to Russia’s military apparatus, and their presence helps Moscow achieve its strategic goals, from acquiring needed resources to competing with China and the United States, both of whom have permanent bases in Africa and more military might.
According to the Russian Embassy in Khartoum, about 590 Russian citizens, including 115 permanent residents, were staying in Sudan as of end 2018. No cases of infringing upon Russian compatriots’ political and civil rights and their discrimination have been recorded. On the whole, the socioeconomic situation of Russian citizens permanently residing in Sudan remains satisfactory. In July 2010 a Russian helicopter pilot who disappeared in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region has been found and returned to his U.N. peacekeeper's base after being seized and beaten by a militia group.
Russian mercenaries from the private military company Wagner Group had been spotted patrolling the anti-government protests in Khartoum. The Russian Embassy in Khartoum said 15 January 2019 that reports on Russia's alleged mercenaries participating in suppressing protests in Sudan were fake. "We declare with all responsibility that Russian experts from non-government structures do not participate in suppressing protests in Sudan, as some unscrupulous Western media claim", the embassy's spokesman, Vladimir Tomsky, told Sputnik. Russian experts working in Sudan train the Sudanese law enforcement servicemen under existing cooperation contracts, the official added.
A deal between Sudan and Russia on navy port visits could morph into permanent Russian military presence on the Red Sea coast, the head of Sudan’s parliamentary defense committee told Sputnik 12 January 2019. "The date of the requested port call is being discussed. It will be approved if the two countries make an agreement. This deal will pave the way for more agreements and greater cooperation… possibly a Russian base on the Red Sea," Maj. Gen. Al-Hadi Adam said. A Russian port visit, he added, could give the Sudanese Navy first-hand experience of Russia’s cutting-edge military equipment and help train its naval forces, boosting strategic ties between the two nations.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a draft deal with Sudan to ease port visit regulations for both navies. According to the draft agreement, “the entry of warships shall be made after notification has been given not later than seven working days prior to the scheduled date of entry.” The draft document stressed that “within the framework of the Agreement, no more than seven warships can be present simultaneously, in the territorial sea, inland waters and ports of the receiving State.” It did not, however, provide for the building of a military base in Sudan.
The rise of Russia’s political and military activity in the Red Sea region does not necessarily mean that the Russians will build their military base on the Sudanese coast in the region of Port Sudan. The Sudanese are ready to lease Suakin Island, situated near Port Sudan, to Turkish investors.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on a visit to Russia 23 November 2017 that his country needs protection from the U.S. and could serve as a gateway to Africa for Moscow. Al-Bashir, speaking at the start of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, accused the U.S. of fomenting the conflict in Sudan. Al-Bashir added that "we need protection from the U.S. aggressive actions." The Sudanese leader told Putin that his country could help Russia develop contacts with other African nations. "Sudan could become a key to Africa for Russia," he said in remarks released by the Kremlin.
Al-Bashir noted that Sudan is concerned about the situation in the Red Sea and sees the U.S. as a problem there, adding that "we would like to discuss the issue from the point of view of the use of bases in the Red Sea." It wasn't immediately clear from al-Bashir's statement if the Sudanese leader meant to offer the Russian navy use of its facilities. Russian officials haven't commented on the issue. During the visit to Russia, Bashir even offered to build an airbase for Russia on its Red Sea coast.
Sudan is allegedly interested in purchasing Su-30 and Su-35 fighter jets, missile boats, minesweeper and missile systems, including S-300 systems. In 2016, it turned out that Russia had agreed to export 170 T-72 main battle tanks (MBT) to Sudan.
Russia may already be too late to access resources that have been sewn up by China, which has scored success through its long-term activity on the continent. The Russia did not show an inclination to commit significant resources to its activities in Africa, or deliver aid to countries there, when Russia was in a strong economic situation.
Bilateral military-technical cooperation was launched in 1968. Currently, Russia is fulfilling contracts for the delivery of 12 Mil Mi-8MT Hip assault-transport helicopters and 12 Mi-24P Hind transport-attack helicopters. Moscow is processing requests for the delivery of BTR-80A armoured personnel carriers, small arms and ammunition and an additional batch of helicopters.
On August 3, 2015, a protocol on making supplements to the March 3, 2003 intergovernmental agreement stipulating the establishment of a bilateral commission on military-technical cooperation entered into force. Between August 23-24, 2017, Moscow hosted the second meeting of the Mixed Russian-Sudanese Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation. The Commission was co-chaired by Alexey Frolkin, Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation and Lieutenant General Omer Zayn Al-Abadin Mohamed, Deputy Director General of Sudan’s Military Industry Corporation.
After years of neglect, by 2010 the sincerity of Russia's desire to playing an active role in Sudan remained to be seen. Russian interest in Sudan is driven by a desire to access the country's natural resources. Russian analysts are skeptical of Moscow's intention of being drawn into the difficult negotiations that will be necessary to reach a settlement between the Sudanese factions. This interest in tapping natural resources extends beyond Sudan to all of Africa, which explains interest in expanding Russia's level of engagement with various countries on the continent. The analysts question the credentials of Mikhail Margelov, who was appointed the Russian President's special envoy to Sudan in 2009, contending that he is not a professional diplomat with experience in Africa, but was chosen for this assignment largely for his public diplomacy skills and ability to work well in the West.
Russian interest in Sudan was driven by an interest in the country's natural resources. There was a belief within the GOR that an end to the fighting and instability in Sudan was necessary to unlock access to the oil, gas, and minerals in Sudan and neighboring countries. Sending the Russian President's special representative, Mikhail Margelov, to the region could help lay the groundwork for Russian economic activity, while also giving the appearance that Russia would play a role in reaching a peaceful settlement between the Sudanese factions.
On December 29, 1991, Sudan officially recognised the Russian Federation, as well as other CIS countries. The current Sudanese leadership headed by President Omar al-Bashir is interested in expanding diverse cooperation with Russia. The two countries maintain top- and high-level political dialogue. On October 25, 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had a telephone conversation with the President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir. They discussed certain aspects of Russia-Sudan relations and matters concerning a domestic Sudanese peace settlement. Between October 18-21, 2015, Second Sudanese Vice President Hassabu Abdalrahman headed a large national delegation on a working visit to Moscow. During the visit, he held talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy and also had meetings with representatives of the Russian business community.
Both countries’ foreign ministries continue to cooperate. In November 2001 and May 2006, Sudan’s foreign ministers Mustafa Osman Ismail and Lam Akol visited Moscow. In December 2010, May 2012, April 2013 and April 2014, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti also visited Moscow. On December 3, 2014, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a working visit to Khartoum. While there, he had a meeting with the President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir and held talks with Ali Ahmed Karti. On September 10, 2015, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour visited Moscow. On February 26, 2016, Ibrahim Ghandour had a conversation with Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the third ministerial session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum in Moscow.
The countries maintain regular contacts on the sidelines of UN General Assembly sessions, like in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2016, when Sergey Lavrov had meetings with Ali Ahmed Karti and Ibrahim Ghandour.
The currently limited Russia-Sudan trade and economic ties are regulated by the 1998 inter-governmental agreement on trade, economic and technological cooperation. Apart from domestic political risks, their development is hampered by problems in providing bank guarantees and financial payments for the delivery of goods to Sudanese companies.
The Russian-Sudanese Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation was established in September 2013. Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy heads its Russian section and Minister of Minerals Hashim Ali Salim heads its Sudanese section. Between December 5-7, 2016, Moscow hosted the Commission’s fourth meeting.
According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, the January-May 2017 trade turnover between Russia and the Republic of the Sudan totaled $149.6 million, including $149.1 million worth of Russian exports. The 2016 trade turnover was $231.4 million, with the 2015 and 2014 trade turnover volumes totaling $139 million and $296 million, respectively. Russian exports totaled $231.1 million and mostly featured agricultural produce deliveries, including 860,000 tonnes of wheat worth $147.8 million, as well as machinery and equipment worth $43.9 million. Russia mostly imported $300,000 worth of agricultural produce, including Carcade (hibiscus) tea, cotton, peanuts and sesame seeds.
The two countries are moving to expand their cooperation in the nuclear power industry. On May 22, 2017, Khartoum hosted a Rosatom seminar on new products of the Russian nuclear sector. On June 20, 2017, the sides signed a memorandum of understanding between Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation and the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources. The document stipulated cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
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