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Zelenskyy discusses Russian paramilitaries with Sudanese leader

Meeting takes place days after reports of Ukrainian intelligence heping to take out Russian Wagner mercenaries in Sudan
President of the Transitional Sovereign Council of Sudan Abdel Fattah al-Burhan zelenskyy in ireland
President of the Transitional Sovereign Council of Sudan Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in Ireland, 23 September 2023. Credit: president.gov.ua
Zelenskyy discusses Russian paramilitaries with Sudanese leader

Returning after an unannounced trip to Canada, President Zelenskyy landed in Ireland’s Shannon airport.

There, he met with the transitional President of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, invited him to visit the Grain From Ukraine initiative, the goal of which is delivering produce to African nations, and join the Global Peace Summit, in which Ukraine will promote its 10-step peace plan to ending Russia’s war, the Presidential Office informed.

As well, the two leaders discussed “common security challenges, in particular the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia,” which most likely refers to the Wagner group. This Russian-backed paramilitary organization that had played a key role in Russia’s war against Ukraine, until its now-late leader organized a coup. It has been instrumental in Russian activities to prop up Moscow’s influence in Africa.

Zelenskyy also thanked Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for the consistent support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Sudan.

Ukrainian intelligence hunts Wagner in Sudan? 

The meeting came days after CNN reported that Ukraine’s special forces are likely behind strikes on Wagner-backed forces in Sudan. A Ukrainian military source told the media that “Ukrainian special services were likely responsible” for a series of drone strikes on a Wagner-backed militia, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which fights the Sudanese army for control over the country.

While CNN could not verify that the Ukrainian Special Forces were definitely involved, it said that video footage of the attack “revealed the hallmarks of Ukrainian-style drone attacks,” involving a Mavic and FPV drone.

The monitor of the drone controller also displayed text in English and Ukrainian, including “Зупинити,” or “Stop.”

Wagner’s sphere of influence in Africa is widely known to comprise Mali, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Libya. 

According to sources, Wagner has been supplying the RSF with surface-to-air missiles buttressing RSF paramilitary fighters and their leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as he battles for power with Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military ruler and the head of its armed forces.

Wagner helps anti-government forces in Sudan

The Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization, has been accused of various commercial and military ties to Sudan. Its now-dead founder, Yevgeny Prighozin, who has close links to President Vladimir Putin, had denied any involvement in the current conflict in Sudan.

However, there is evidence of Wagner’s previous activities in Sudan. In 2017, Sudan’s then President Omar al-Bashir signed a series of deals with the Russian government during a visit to Moscow. These included an agreement for Russia to set up a naval base at Port Sudan on the Red Sea and concession agreements on gold mining between Russian company M Invest and the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals.

The US Treasury alleges that M Invest and a subsidiary group, Meroe Gold, are fronts for the activities of the Wagner Group in Sudan. According to an investigation by CNN, gold has been transported overland to the Central African Republic (CAR), where Wagner is known to operate. Significant amounts of gold have also been smuggled out via a network of military airports. 

Since 2017, Russian and international sources have published images that appear to locate Russian mercenaries inside Sudan. These are said to show them acting in various roles, including training Sudanese soldiers or allegedly helping the security forces crack down on protests.

The war in Sudan began on 15 April 2023, when the RSF launched a series of attacks on government sites. It has resulted in between 4,000 and 10,000 deaths and 6,000 to 12,000 injuries. As of 12 September 2023, over 4.1 million people were internally displaced, and more than 1.1 million others had fled the country as refugees.

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