Ukrainian Special Forces are in Sudan

Recently, footage from Sudan has emerged, which in various cases, Ukrainian soldiers have been seen fighting in the country’s civil war. For context, the civil war mainly involves a rebel militia, called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), fighting against the Sudanese Armed Forces. Supporting the RSF is Russian PMC Wagner. The PMC is acting in Russian interests, securing mining and oil extraction operations in the region.

In 2017, Wagner Group had entered Sudan. A gold mining company in Sudan, Meroe Gold, is believed to be a front for Wagner Group activities. Meroe Gold is a daughter company of M Invest, which itself was under the control of Wagner’s former leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Just between February 2022 and February 2023, an estimated 32.7 metric tons of gold was smuggled by Wagner.

Then there is the question of Ukrainian involvement. While video footage may not have been definitive at first, over time in the past few weeks there has been increasingly mounting evidence of Ukrainian involvement in Sudan. A more significant piece of evidence, is a footage detailing Ukrainian soldiers apprehending 3 men, 2 of which are African and claiming to be locals. The other one is light skinned, being interrogated in Russian. He claims that they are Wagner fighters. The piece of evidence that is crucial in pointing to Ukraine is that the interrogator bares an arm patch with a symbol of an owl, which is the symbol for the Main Directorate of Intelligence.

A geopolitical analyst from the company RANE, which provides geopolitical insights, has been pondering over the reasons for Ukraine’s involvement, talking to the paper The New Arab. The analyst claims that by attacking Russian interests abroad, it would open up further potential opportunities to do the same in other regions as well. Not only this, but the analyst believes that Ukraine may aim to divert Russian forces away from the frontline.

Prior to this, Ukraine was already in support of the Sudanese Armed Forces. On the other side, Russia proper was backing the Rapid Support Forces. There are multiple other countries involved in backing the 2 sides, not only other African nations, but also Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the side of the Sudanese Armed Forces, then the UAE on the side of the RSF. This complex situation has a devastating impact on civilian lives, having resulted in 15,000 deaths.

The various state actors involved demonstrates the complexity of the situation. It is important to monitor how Ukraine’s increased involvement may have repercussions, particularly at home.

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This is quite a complex geopolitical situation. The involvement of Ukrainian soldiers adds another layer. Do you think this could escalate tensions between Ukraine and Russia, and how might it impact the ongoing conflict in Sudan?

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It’s crazy to see how many different state actors are involved, including Ukraine now. Wonder how this will play out in the long run and what it means for the people caught in the middle.

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Proxy wars are fascinating, but what’s interesting here is that Ukraine has the ability to combat Russia on multiple fronts, when typically proxy wars are backed by two major powers who can afford to spread resources, which I’m surprised Ukraine are able to!

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The interviewed geopolitical analyst believes that the reason that Ukraine has decided to dedicate some of their fighters and resources outside of the front line, is that the diversion of resources has a significant enough goal to somewhat, even if only minimally, alter the outcome on the frontline possibly. In a way this makes sense, as special forces soldiers aren’t making up a bulk of the force fighting on the frontlines.

For the civilians caught in the middle, this is absolutely awful and I and we all hope that the situation gets resolved soon, even with ongoing humanitarian action. As for what may happen in the future, it is difficult to say. However, there is the significance that Ukraine may grow closer and have as an ally the Sudanese Armed Forces, which may allow for easier manoeuvrability over operations and influence in Africa, particularly in the face of Russia’s allies in the region, which is more than that of Ukraine’s.

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Indeed, as a war with a significant background behind it, the involvement of this many external state actors does rather complicate the situation. In terms of escalation specifically between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine may very well wish to divert some Russian forces away from the frontline, easing the pressure on Ukrainian soldiers on the front. At the same time, threatening Russian interests in Africa is likely to cause even greater anger in Moscow towards Ukraine, so it is possible there may be unintended repercussions, possibly to “punish” Ukraine, I’m thinking is possible.

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