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Sudan's Leader Visits Moscow as West Isolates Russia over Ukraine

FILE - General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, attends the signing ceremony of the agreement on peace and ceasefire in Juba, South Sudan October 21, 2019. Dagalo flies to Moscow, Feb. 23, 2022, to hold meetings with senior Russian officials.

Sudan’s military leader, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, is flying to Moscow to hold meetings with senior Russian officials. Dagalo’s embrace of Kremlin leaders comes as western countries are punishing Russia over its actions in Ukraine and amid tensions with Sudan’s military government.

Deputy head of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo on Wednesday announced he was heading to Russia.

The visit by Sudan’s top military leader comes amid tensions between western countries and Khartoum’s military as the West is seeking to isolate Russia diplomatically and with sanctions for its moves against Ukraine.

Dagalo wrote on his twitter account that his visit aims to expand relations between Sudan and Russia and strengthen cooperation.

When asked to comment on the timing of the trip, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman Khalid Farah said it was unrelated to the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

“This visit comes in the context of the will of the two friendly countries (Sudan and Russia) to strengthen their friendship in all fields and aspects. The two countries (Sudan and Russia) have historic and old relations. This visit was scheduled ahead and has nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening in Ukraine.” he said.

Retired Major General Ismaeel Magzob, an independent analyst, told VOA the visit appears primarily to be about trade and investment.

He notes the delegation includes Sudanese ministers in charge of finance, minerals, livestock, and agriculture.

But, Magzob said the two sides – both facing western isolation - could also see the tensions between Russia and the West as an opportunity.

Magzob said Dagalo might want to use the current Ukrainian crisis to open a door for Russia into Africa through Sudan. He said perhaps Russia might also want to take advantage of the (anti-military) protests in Sudan to try to make a deal on a Russian (military) base in the Red Sea at Port-Sudan.

Russia has been seeking a navy base in Port Sudan, along the country’s eastern Red Sea coast, which would be Moscow’s first military base in Africa.

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a draft agreement for the base in 2020, which was put in question by Sudan’s transitional government.

Sudan’s military has been under sustained, mass protests against its rule since it took power in October from civilians in a shared sovereign council.

But just a week after Sudan’s military took power, its army chief told Russian state media that the base was still on the table.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in November, told the Russian government-owned Sputnik news agency the base was part of an existing agreement.