The American channel CNN said on Wednesday that Ukraine was “probably” behind several drone strikes in Sudan against Wagner mercenaries and paramilitary men of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo’s Rapid Support Forces. If the information is confirmed, it would be the first Ukrainian attack against Russian interests in Africa.
Already busy on the front of its war against Russia, why would Ukraine interfere in the conflict in Sudan? kyiv is suspected of having sponsored drone strikes near Omdurman, a town on the other bank of the Nile from the capital Khartoumsaid the American channel CNN on Wednesday September 20.
Videos, most of which are in subjective view, showing “kamikaze” drones falling on light vehicles have been circulating on social networks for almost a week already. “They immediately attracted attention because there were no drone attacks so far in the conflict in Sudan. We first thought that the Sudanese army was inspired by the Ukrainian examplethen there was quickly talk of a specifically Ukrainian operation in the country,” explains Sim Tack, a military analyst for Force Analysis, a conflict monitoring company.
CNN claims to have had confirmation from a Ukrainian military source that kyiv’s involvement in these strikes was the most likely hypothesis. Special forces were reportedly dispatched to the site to target mercenaries from the Wagner group and fighters from the Rapid Support Forces (FSR) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo, known as “Hemedti”, suspected of being supported by the Russian paramilitary group.
These agents launched fourteen drone attacks targeting light vehicles transporting fighters, specifies CNN.
Contacted by the American channel, the Ukrainian Minister of Defense refused to “confirm or deny” these allegations, while the regular army of General al-Burhan, at war against the RSF since April 2023, affirmed not “ have no knowledge of Ukrainian operation in Sudan”
Main indication of Ukrainian involvement in these strikes: images of the interface used by the drone operator “show text both in English and also written in Cyrillic”, underlines Sim Tack.
The drones identified in the videos, Chinese DJI MAVIC 3s, were also regularly used by the Ukrainian army against the Russians. “These are civilian commercial drones that are easy to modify to attach explosives,” emphasizes Danilo delle Fave, specialist in military strategy at the International Team for the Study of Security (ITSS) Verona.
Why not better drones?
Is this enough to conclude that the first proven operation by Ukrainian agents against Russian interests on the African continent? “The only way to be 100% sure would be to have official confirmation from Ukraine, the army or to be able to analyze the debris. We probably won’t have any of that,” summarizes Danilo delle Fave who, for his part, considers the theory of Ukraine’s drones in Sudan plausible.
It remains to be seen who would have been sent there to carry out such a mission. “There is plenty of choice. Before the war, Ukraine had very active intelligence services,” emphasizes Sim Tack. For Danilo delle Fave, the main suspect would be “the GUR MOU, that is to say the Ukrainian military spies who have the reputation of being on the front line for risky missions”.
Read alsoWho are the FSR, these paramilitaries opposed to the army in Sudan?
A use of elite troops which fuels the skepticism of certain commentators with regard to Ukrainian involvement. “If Kiev goes so far as to send special agents to Sudan in the current context of war in Ukraine, why provide them with simple commercial drones, when Ukraine is building much more sophisticated models, which are capable of carrying loads more significant explosives?”, asks Huseyn Aliyev, specialist in the conflict in Ukraine at the University of Glasgow.
The DJI MAVIC 3 “can be effective for targeting one or two people in a car, but not for blowing up a light military vehicle carrying several soldiers,” continues this expert. One of the videos posted shows such a vehicle forced to stop after being hit by a drone, but without having been completely destroyed.
All that for this ? That’s what the skeptics are wondering. But the Ukrainians may not want to waste their best drones, even though the counter-offensive effort is in full swing, retort those who, interviewed by France 24, consider the hypothesis of a Ukrainian operation possible.
Nor would the goal be to eliminate as many of Wagner’s mercenaries as possible in a single strike. After all, these fighters no longer even participate in the war in Ukraine and have, since the mutiny of their late leader Yevgeni Prigozhin, been confined to their African missions.
Targeting Russian interests in Sudan
It would be more about demonstrating that “the Russians are not safe anywhere and that it is also dangerous for anyone to collaborate and do business with them”, believes Danilo delle Fave.
As such, the choice of Sudan to strike Wagner and his supposed FSR allies may seem wise. The country has represented a strategic economic issue for Moscow since 2014. After the imposition of international sanctions following the annexation of Crimea, Russia sought new sources of revenue, and gold mines located in the south of the country represented a most attractive target.
From 2017, Wagner did everything to secure access to the Sudanese gold industry through investments made by front companies, as revealed by the New York Times in an investigation published in June 2022.
This is also the reason why Russia preferred to rely on General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo. His clan controls, in fact, “directly part of the gold mines”, underlines Sim Tack.
Drone strikes would thus constitute a warning. Ukraine wants to demonstrate its ability to hit the Russian wallet: “Kiev knows that the war in Ukraine can still last a long time and, by interfering in the Sudanese conflict, it can weaken a source of Russian income by helping the adversaries of the allies of Moscow,” notes Sim Tack. If these strikes are indeed Ukrainian, they probably illustrate the old adage that “the enemies of my enemies are my friends”.
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