Dossier: UN group expert on Sudan linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin
Exclusive documents obtained by the Investigation Center &# 171; Dossier&# 187; testify to the connection between a Russian academic working at the UN and a Kremlin oligarch under US sanctions
Exclusive documents obtained by the London-based center «Dossier», show links between Russian professor Nikolai Dobronravin, a member of the UN group on Sudan, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and associate of Vladimir Putin, who is spearheading Russia’s expansion into Africa. Centre «Dossier», funded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, shared his findings with the Washington think tank New America and the British newspaper The Guardian, which published the results of the investigation on Friday, November 27.
According to the US Treasury Department, Prigozhin leads Wagner’s private military group, sending Russian mercenaries to Sudan, Libya and the Central African Republic, and is also behind the infamous «troll factory», who took an active part in attempts of Russian interference in the US presidential elections in 2016.
In September 2019, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on several companies closely related to Prigozhin, including two African mining companies M-Invest and Lobaye Invest..
Received «Dossier» data show that in 2017, M-Invest paid for the trip of Nikolai Dobronravin, a Russian professor and specialist in Africa from St. Petersburg State University, to Bangui, the capital of the CAR.
Professor Nikolay Dobronravin
In May 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres approved Dobronravin as Russia’s representative on the four-member UN expert group on Sudan. Initially, the US tried to suspend the appointment of Dobronravin to this position..
Dobronravin arrived in Bangui in 2017 with three Prigozhin’s employees, including Dmitry Sytiy, founder of Lobaye Invest.
According to the accusations made by the Ministry of Finance in September, Syty worked in «Internet Research Agency», Prigogine «troll factory» in St. Petersburg.
No sanctions were imposed on Professor Dobronavin.
Russia is helping to lift UN sanctions against a number of countries, including Sudan, which favors Moscow. Russia insists on lifting the embargo on the supply of arms to the Darfur region, where a civil war has been going on for many years. Moscow insists that the situation in Darfur has returned to normal, although London, Paris and Berlin disagree with this.
The UN Group of Experts, which includes Dobronravin, has broad advisory powers – in particular, we are talking about the provision of information and analysis of the arms embargo in Darfur, as well as the lifting of travel bans and the unfreezing of assets of a number of Sudanese politicians.
According to analysts, experts have unique opportunities to influence the lifting of sanctions and the opening of Darfur to the extraction of uranium and other minerals. The lifting of the sanctions would certainly be very beneficial to both Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Sudanese military, Moscow’s main allies, and even militant groups who transport gold mined in Sudan across the border with Libya..
The UN, most likely, did not know that Dobronravin was in any way connected with Prigozhin. All candidates for expert commissions go through a verification process, they are required to provide recommendations.
In the correspondence of one of the internal chats of the Prigozhin group, the representative of the Russian oligarch in Sudan Mikhail Potepkin speaks of Dobronravin as «our professor at the UN».
Dobronravin himself admits that he gave «brief consultations» during a trip to the Central African Republic, but claims that the invitation was «private» character, and that he only later learned that the trip was funded by M-Invest. He denies that this has influenced his current work at the UN..
«I personally did not work for Prigozhin. I do not consider this an obstacle to my work at the UN», – he said in an interview with the Guardian.
As found in the center «Dossier», The Russian Foreign Ministry tried to include Dobronravin in the UN group of experts on the situation in the CAR back in 2017, but this attempt failed. After that, Dobronravin’s career was taken up by a certain «high-ranking Russian diplomat», who helped him apply for a job in the UN group on Sudan.
Although Dobronravin claims that during a trip to Bangui in 2017, his fellow travelers did not introduce himself to him, the files received suggest that he subsequently kept in touch with Sitiy and other Prigozhin employees in St. Petersburg..
Russia has long been interested in Sudan. In 2018, Moscow actively supported the dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown by the military after massive protests. The country is now ruled by a transitional government, but Moscow is keen to maintain its influence. On November 11, the Sudanese authorities signed an agreement with the Russian government on the construction of a naval base, which can be visited by Russian warships..
Dobronravin states that he never wrote any conclusions for the UN in favor of Prigozhin. «Any bias will be immediately noticed by the commission», – he said, adding that he and his fellow experts prepare annual reports and confidential documents on the situation in the country. He said he was in favor «modernization» the Darfur sanctions regime, adding that «proud of his work for the UN».
«Russia… does not want to see Sudan a democratic country, – said regional expert Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, – Moscow is very actively expanding its presence in Sudan in the field of gold mining and cooperation in the field of defense. It’s about projecting power».
According to Dobronravin, the Russian Foreign Ministry assisted him in getting a job at the UN. And although the Russian professor claims that he never met Prigozhin «officially», he refused to answer the question of whether he communicated with the Russian oligarch in «informal setting»