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2 May 2019

Tim Lister, Sebastian Shukla & Nima Elbagir, CNN

Sudan: CNN investigation alleges Russian company M-Invest drew up plan for deposed government to violently suppress demonstrations

"Fake news and public executions: Documents show a Russian company's plan for quelling protests in Sudan", 25 April 2019.

When anti-government protests erupted in Sudan at the end of last year, the response of President Omar al-Bashir came straight from the dictators' playbook -- a crackdown that led to scores of civilian deaths...The author of this strategy was not the Sudanese government. According to documents seen by CNN, it was drawn up by a Russian company tied to an oligarch favored by the Kremlin: Yevgeny Prigozhin...

Indeed, the documents seen by CNN originate from a St. Petersburg-based company, M-Invest, which has an office in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. M-Invest lists as its core business the "extraction of ores and sands of precious metals."...the company was granted concessions for a gold mine in Sudan. But its activities seem to have gone far beyond mining...According to the documents reviewed by CNN, M-Invest drew up a plan to discredit and suppress those protests. One document from early January...proposes spreading claims that protesters were attacking mosques and hospitals. It also suggested creating an image of demonstrators as "enemies of Islam and traditional values" by planting LGBT flags among them. And it proposed a social media campaign claiming that "Israel supports the protesters."...And it even proposed "public executions of looters and other spectacular events to distract the protest-minded audience."...M-Invest also proposed building social media teams to attack the protest movement...In some ways the playbook is similar to that deployed by the Internet Research Agency, accused by US authorities of trying to disrupt the 2016 US election campaign... 

Sources in Khartoum have told CNN that Bashir's government did try to begin implementing some of M-Invest's plans...M-Invest also signed a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry, seen by CNN, for the use of transport aircraft of the 223rd Flight. Between August 2018 and February 2019, two aircraft of the 223rd Flight made at least nine flights to Khartoum. One of those planes took Bashir on his controversial visit to Syria last December...[CNN made multiple attempts to contact M-Invest for comment and was unable to reach the company.]