Ukraine Situation Report: Are Kyiv’s Special Operators Fighting Wagner In Africa?

New video has emerged adding to claims that Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate is operating in Sudan against Wagner forces.

byHoward Altman|
There are more claims that Ukrainian special operators are attacking Wagner forces in Sudan.
Telegram Screencap


In newly released video, a special unit sniper of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) is seen lying prone on a rocky outcrop, firing rounds from his suppressed rifle at a target near a house in the distance.

Instead of taking place somewhere in Ukraine, however, the Babel Telegram channel says that action and several others took place in Sudan against Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) forces. Wagner is working there with the Rapid Reaction Forces (RSF) to topple the government in Sudan, where there's an ongoing civil war against the Sudanese Armed Forces. Wagner, as we have previously reported, has been active for years in Africa. It has assisted several post-coup governments as Russia seeks to expand its influence on the continent.

Attacking Wagner forces in Africa would mark a small but significant expansion of the war in Ukraine and seems to fulfill the promise GUR's commander made to hunt down "Russian military criminals" anywhere in the world. (More on that later.)

“Ukrainian special forces did conduct operations in Sudan against” Wagner and RSF, Babel said Friday. “This information was confirmed to Babel by sources in intelligence circles [who] provided several videos. The details of the operation have not yet been disclosed.”

In addition to the 22-second sniper video, Babel posted two others. They depict some of the tactics - especially First Person View (FPV) drones swooping in on targets - that GUR has used against Russians in Ukraine but have been uncommon in Africa.

A 2-minute, 46-second video begins where the first one left off, then shows what’s claimed to be a GUR member on a rooftop, firing a light machine gun. The video then cuts to a drone’s view of explosions in several buildings in a crowded city. At one point someone inspects a body lying on the road. He then looks up and points at the drone capturing the scene. It ends with three snipers on the same rocky outcrop seen in the first video.

A 36-second video shows four men, some armed with rifles, walking out of a building down a garbage-strewn alley. The next scene is from the perspective of an FPV drone, which circles the building. That video ends with smoke pouring out of the building, apparently after being struck by the FPV drone.

The videos are not geolocated and we have no way of independently verifying their authenticity. However, the clips do appear similar to those seen in a compilation of videos CNN published last month that it geolocated to “in and around Omdurman, a city across the Nile River from the capital Khartoum which has become a focal point of fighting between [Sudan’s] two rival factions.”

The videos show precision strikes by FPV drones on trucks, individuals and buildings, as well as a night operation by unidentified troops. An unnamed source told CNN that “Ukrainian special services were likely responsible.”

The GUR has previous experience in Sudan, it should be noted.

When fighting first broke out in April, it conducted a rescue operation to evacuate nearly 140 people from war-torn Khartoum, according to the GUR Facebook page.

The GUR says it rescued nearly 140 people from Khartoum during heavy fighting.. (GUR photo)

Though he declined comment about the videos posted Friday by Babel, the GUR’s commander previously responded to our questions about whether GUR carried out the attacks in Sudan described in the CNN story.

Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov would neither confirm nor deny his agency's involvement in those attacks, but he said that such actions should not come as a surprise.

“...anywhere across the world we will be seeking and hunting down Russian military criminals, and sooner or later that time will come whenever they are,” Budanov told us during an hour-long exclusive interview in his hotel room while he was visiting Washington D.C. “That is why we shouldn't be surprised when in any territory, something happens to Russian military criminals.” 

Given the apparently small footprint GUR may have in Sudan, it is unlikely that its presence will alter the course of the civil war or expand the scope of that conflict. However, the seeming ability it has to strike Wagner targets there would indicate the spy agency has a long reach and future operations on other battlefields abroad are possible.

Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

Little has changed on the battlefield over the past 48 hours, with small territorial turnovers continuing in the Robotyne-Verbove salient in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it repelled Russian attacks near Novoprokopivka while the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces "took intensive actions to capture favorable lines and new positions and repelled two counter-attacks."

A well-known Ukrainian milblogger and reserve officer who goes by the pseudonym Tatarigami offered a stark assessment of Russia’s ability to counter the counteroffensive.

Claims that the Russians are running out of troops to defend against the counteroffensive are not only wrong, they are “potentially harmful,” according to Tatarigami.

“This information is not only inaccurate but also lacks substantiated data on the location and availability of Russian reserves,” said Tatargami of a counteroffensive grinding out incremental gains at high costs. “In the past, I made a similar comment when regiments from the 76th Division started moving southward. Unfortunately, I continue to witness the deployment of additional units and reserves across various parts of the frontline.”

Russia may not be able to mount a new offensive, he said, but “they appear to be deployed in the areas where Ukrainian forces might breach defenses. Their purpose seems to be slowing down Ukrainian troops and severely limiting their ability to exploit any breakthroughs.”

Russia, he added, doesn’t need to mount an offensive to blunt Ukrainian goals.

“They aim to undermine both political and military support for Ukraine,” he said. “The enemy remains formidable and capable, despite all their shortcomings. They still possess significant anti-tank capabilities, the ability to deploy remote minefields, employ loitering munitions, maintain artillery and counter-battery capabilities, and continue fortifying their defenses.”

The narrative that Russians are on the verge of collapse “fosters unrealistic expectations and diverts attention from the necessity for long-term planning and vision. It can lead to an overemphasis on short-term optimism and hinder the recognition of mistakes, the need for change, or an increase in support.”

Earlier this spring, “I cautioned against setting unrealistic expectations and the belief that Russian defenses would collapse within weeks or days, leading to celebrations in liberated Crimea,” he said. “I emphasized that a counter-offensive alone would not win this war and that we needed to plan for the long term. I hope that now, my message will resonate more strongly.”

Several Russian milbloggers are reporting that another Russian aircraft was shot down by friendly fire, apparently the second one in as many weeks.

“Your face when you publish a fresh air defense launch, and an hour later you read the news about a Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft being shot down by ‘friendly fire,” the Voin DV Telegram channel wrote Friday on a post with the iconic two monkey meme.

“PS. We allow ourselves to joke about this topic only because the pilot survived. The situation itself with the latest fire is not funny at all.”

“At this rate of work of our valiant air defense, we will soon be left without aviation,” the Fighterbombmer Telegram channel said.

Last week, Fighterbomber posted a short message about an Su-35 Flanker being shot down, with other reporting claiming Russian air defenses shot it down near Tokmak in Zaporizhizhia Oblast. You can read more about that in our initial reporting here.

It's a situation the U.K. Defense Ministry picked up on earlier this week.

In the wake of this latest incident, yet another milblogger complained about the communications between Russian aircraft and air defense forces and suggested the creation of an air battle management system similar to those in other countries.

“I don’t want to point my finger again, but the enemy has had analogues of such systems for a long time,” the Military Informant Telegram channel wrote. “This does not eliminate friendly fire incidents, but it does reduce them significantly.”

In addition to announcing a new $199 million aid package for Ukraine consisting mainly of badly needed artillery ammunition, Sweden’s defense minister formally broached the issue of that nation giving some of its Jas-39 Gripen fighters to Kyiv.

Pal Jonson told a news conference the armed forces were due to report by Nov. 6 on the potential for sending some of those jets to Ukraine after the government asked them to assess the issue, Reuters reported.

But he reiterated that Sweden would - for domestic security reasons - need to join NATO before it would be able to potentially spare any fighter jets. Sweden is seeking membership in the alliance although its accession has been held up by member states Turkey and Hungary.

Jonson’s public announcement that Sweden is at least studying how it might provide Ukraine with Gripens follows previous reporting suggesting that Sweden was considering such a move. You can read more about that, and how the aircraft could help Ukraine, in our initial reporting on the topic here.

The 480th Fighter Squadron (480th FS) is the U.S. Air Forces In Europe (USAFE's) "only suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) squadron, providing airpower operations to NATO, EUCOM, and AFRICOM with a 'Combat Ready' F-16 squadron prepared to deploy combat airpower in support of Joint, NATO & coalition taskings," according to the Air Force.

An image has emerged of one of its F-16 pilots rocking a Ghost of Kyiv patch, an especially symbolic display given where those fighters fly.

The German Rheinmetall arms maker is sending Ukraine “tens of thousands” of L15 155mm ammunition rounds.

The company announced Friday that those rounds are headed to Kyiv as part of a larger deal, funded by the German Bundeswehr, to also provide 155mm Assegai artillery rounds to the German military.

“The order is worth a figure in the lower three-digit million-euro range,” the company said in a media release Friday. “Delivery is scheduled to take place in 2024.” 

“As recently as July 2023, Rheinmetall announced the signing of a new framework agreement for artillery ammunition with the Bundeswehr and the expansion of an existing agreement,” the company said. “The contracts encompass the delivery of several hundred thousand shells, fuses and propelling charges.” 

The war in Ukraine “has compelled the armed forces of numerous nations to replenish their ammunition stocks. In this context, Rheinmetall has already booked several large orders for artillery ammunition.“

The recently concluded framework agreement for 155mm artillery ammunition "runs until 2029 and represents a gross potential order volume of around €1.2 billion ($1.27 billion). The first orders of service and practice ammunition came directly after the contract was signed."

North Korea has begun transferring artillery to Russia, a U.S. official told CBS News.

"It was not immediately clear whether the transfer is part of a new, long-term supply chain or a more limited consignment, or what North Korea is getting in return for the weapons," the outlet reported.

Pyongyang's support for Moscow "appears to be the culmination of the rare summit last month in Moscow, when Kim Jong Un traveled by train to meet Putin in person." 

As we reported at the time: "Kim pledged to support Russia in what he described as a “sacred fight” against the West at large. Although details of a rumored deal involving the expected transfer of more North Korean artillery ammunition were not disclosed, the talks did touch upon possible Russian assistance for North Korea’s 'space program,' and, more broadly, “opportunities for bilateral military-technical cooperation.”

A Russian missile strike on the city of Kharkiv killed at least two people and injured at least 30 others, Ukrainian officials said Friday.

A woman and her 10-year-old grandson were killed in the attack, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said Friday on his Telegram channel. The dead boy’s 11-month-old brother was also injured.

Friday’s attack on Kharkiv city follows one yesterday near in the oblast near Kupiansk that killed at least 52 people, one of the deadliest Russian strikes in months. The death toll increased since the initial reporting Thursday.

That attack hit a cafe and shop in the village of Groza. There was also one on a hospital in Kherson Oblast.

“Today, around 1:15 p.m., the Russians shelled a cafe and a shop in the village of Groza in the Kupyan district, where there were many civilians,” Oleh Synehubov, Head of Kharkiv region military administration, said on his Telegram channel Thursday. “Now rescuers continue to work on the spot. As of now, the bodies of 48 dead people, including a 6-year-old boy, have been recovered from the rubble.”

Another six people, including one child, were injured in that attack.

“A demonstrably brutal Russian crime – a rocket attack on an ordinary grocery store, a completely deliberate act of terrorism,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on his Telegram channel. “As of this time, more than 48 dead are known. My condolences to all those who have lost loved ones! Assistance is provided to the wounded.”

In Kherson Oblast, “Russian troops shelled Beryslav, destroying a hospital, Head of Kherson Oblast Military Administration Oleksandr Prokudin said on his Telegram channel. “The fourth floor was completely destroyed, another floor was partially destroyed. Emergency vehicles were also damaged by enemy fire.”

In addition, two medical workers were injured, he said.

There was a haunting moment after the strike in Groza. As people were frantically searching for survivors, someone tried calling one of the victims. One of them had a phone in a pocket with a ringtone of the patriotic Ukrainian song Chervona Kalyna that went off as someone tried to find them.

Commenting on the attack on Groza, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov on Friday claimed Russia does "not strike at civilian objects. Strikes are made on military infrastructure, military personnel and representatives of military leadership."

Ukraine was once again forced to shut down a Danube River ferry crossing to Romania overnight after another Russian drone attack.

No one was injured in the attack on the port and border infrastructure, but the Orlivka ferry has been temporarily suspended, according to Ukraine’s State Border Guard.

“All vehicles are diverted to other directions,” the State Border Guard warned. “Citizens are asked to take into account the above temporary circumstances when planning a trip to or from Romania.”

Travelers needing to cross over to Romania were advised to travel to Reni, a port about 12 miles to the northwest.

Ferry service at that crossing was suspended on Sept. 26 after a previous drone attack there.

The attack on Olivka was one of many carried out by Russian drones that night, according to the Ukrainian Air Force, which claimed that 25 of 33 Shahed-136 drones were eliminated.

The attack was captured on video, shot from across the Danube in Romania, showing air defense munitions streaking into the air trying to shoot down the drones. The loud noise of at least one of the drones can be heard before the video ends with a fireball, apparently from one of them crashing.

Several noted Russian milbloggers hit back Friday at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insinuation on Thursday that drugs or alcohol may have played a role in the Aug. 23 plane crash that Russian authorities say killed Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and several of his top aids.

Putin on Thursday said that there were grenade fragments found on some of the bodies in that crash, suggesting it might have been blown up from the inside. The corpses, he said, should have been tested for drugs and alcohol. Putin also said that FSB investigators found 11 pounds of cocaine during searches of Wagner offices in the wake of Prigozhin’s putative putsch in June.

The Wagner-associated Grey Zone Telegram channel did not take kindly to Putin’s presumption, dismissing the notion that anyone on board that plane would have been playing with a live grenade.

Then they took a not-so-subtle shot at Putin without actually naming him.

“Conclusion: the voiced version, especially when sprinkled with alcohol and cocaine, is epically idiotic and raises concerns about the sanity and competence of its creators. A pathetic, hastily put together, ugly, mediocre attempt to trample the dead Heroes of the Fatherland into shit.”

Grey Zone was not alone in lashing out.

"So a short summary: the most combat-ready unit in the history of modern Russia was commanded by alcoholics and junkies who, being professional military men, did not know how to handle hand grenades?" said the Children of the Arbat pro-war Telegram channel, Reuters reported.

"Two heroes of great Russia died in this plane crash, just in case someone forgot, and not druggies," said the Southern Front Telegram channel, according to Reuters. "The version about a self-detonation is laughable and a farce."

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) on Thursday released a new video of a raid it says it recently conducted on Crimea with troops on personal watercraft, and vowed there are more to come. You can read more about that raid in our original reporting here.

The 66-second video opens with a short scene of two troops riding individually on personal watercraft past a tree-lined shore, then at the 3-second mark shifts to two-men teams aboard jet skis seen through the greenish glow of a night vision device. It later cuts to video of Ukrainian troops in support vessels firing machine guns, then to several personal watercraft riding in formation, then back to a support vessel and back to the troops on personal watercraft. It ends with one soldier flexing his biceps in triumph, another on a machine gun giving a thumb-up and finally another scene of the troops on personal watercraft.

A GUR special operation mission, scouts of the special purpose unit “Artan landed on the western coast of the peninsula, as well as on the Tendriv and Kinburn spits,”  Artan commander Viktor Torkotyuk said Thursday on the GUR Telegram channel.

The Tendriv and Kinbur spits are two points on a Kherson Oblast peninsula jutting out into the northern Black Sea about 70 and 80 miles respectively northwest of western Crimea.

The Kinburn and Tendriv spits, located in occupied Kherson Oblast, are between 70 and 80 miles northwest of Crimea. (Google Earth image)

“The special forces engaged in a fierce battle with the Russian invaders in the specified occupied territories, inflicting significant losses on the enemy,” Torkotyuk claimed. “On the way back after completing a combat mission in Crimea, the soldiers of ‘Artan’ also fought a battle at sea - the enemy tried to pursue the special forces on surface high-speed patrol boats with aviation support.”

The raid was “not the first and not the last operation of the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula,” Torkotyuk said. “Most of them will become known only later. This is a systematic, planned and coordinated work of all involved units. The enemy will feel the consequences of our work for a long time. With our actions, we constantly remind the Russian invaders of the inevitability of the liberation of all occupied territories."

As with Wedneday’s video, we cannot say for sure where this one took place or when.

Meanwhile, the Russian Voin DV Telegram channel derided the GUR claims.

“The video itself is unremarkable,” Voin DV wrote. “Rides along the river and sea, shooting in the style of “get it, the sky is fucked” and other standard PR kit from [GUR commander Lt. Gen. Kyrylo] Budanov’s owls.”

In addition, Tarkotyuk’s message did not address Russian claims, which we noted yesterday, that one of the raiders was captured and interrogated by the Russian FSB.

As you can see from the story above, some of the fighting taking place in Ukraine has been small-scale operations along the coastlines and rivers. A Ukrainian special operations forces (SSO) team is seen in this video below conducting riverine operations in the eastern sector.

And finally, the Russian Military Information Telegram channel is boasting about Russian fake artillery and troops designed to fool Ukrainian forces.

“Examples of the use by the Russian Armed Forces of false positions, mock-ups of weapons and personnel, in order to divert enemy fire,” Military Informant said. “Previously, there was a whole series of publications about high-quality Ukrainian mock-ups, but the work of masking their positions is not only carried out by the enemy.”

Whether a static mannequins can fool ubiquitous drones that establish patterns of life over the battlefield remains to be seen.

That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to reporter about Ukraine.

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