This article conducts an in-depth investigation, analyzing a video allegedly depicting Ukrainian snipers in Sudan. This detailed article demonstrates the importance and capabilities of OSINT (overt intelligence) in today’s world where information warfare and propaganda are often weaponized. Readers will receive detailed video analysis, including geolocation, image analysis, and contextual understanding. The article highlights how Bellingcat uses open sources and various research methods to discover the authenticity and possible provenance of this material.
The main aspects described in this article include a thorough analysis of visual features, comparison with geographic location, and the study of content distributed through social networks and other channels. It is important to establish the context of the events in Sudan and the possible impact these events have on the international community. This article is of paramount importance not only to security and OSINT experts, but also to the general public interested in understanding modern information warfare and investigative techniques. It highlights the role of open source analysis in solving complex international conflicts and shows how technology can facilitate the search for truth.
It has been reliably established that Russian mercenaries have been operating in Sudan since 2017, including members of the infamous Wagner paramilitary group.
But since the war in Sudan began earlier this year, there have also been reports of suspected Ukrainian mercenaries fighting alongside the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in their battle against the Rapid Support Force (RSF). In April of this year, CNN reported that Wagner supplied missiles to the RSF militia.
Recently, videos have surfaced of light-skinned men holding sniper rifles in an arid landscape, and the videos are also said to show Ukrainian special forces in Sudan. When segments of that video surfaced publicly, it reignited the rumor mill, prompting Bellingcat to investigate.
A slightly longer, higher-quality video was sent to contributor Bellingcat and other journalists, suggesting that its distribution may have been an attempt to influence public opinion.
A video with alleged Ukrainian figures in Sudan began to circulate online on October 6, 2023. Later, it was spread by such Telegram channels as “Trukha Ukraine” and the Babel.ua news site. The latter claimed that the country’s intelligence sources had confirmed that the men in the video were Ukrainians fighting against the RSF.
Babel reported that Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Military Intelligence Service of Ukraine, GUR MOU, simply commented: “Ukraine will destroy Russian war criminals, wherever they are.”
The video, which was shared independently by several different sources, is actually several pieces of footage edited together. Included in this selection are three videos that Bellingcat was unable to geolocate: one of a sniper shooting at what may be a truck, one of an urban shooting at night, and another of a man on a cream roof shooting. large-caliber machine gun.
It begins with a man in camouflage shooting a sniper rifle from the top of a mountain. Some claimed that he is a Ukrainian paramilitary.
#BREAKING Video footage confirms presence of Ukrainian special forces in Sudan.
Ukrainian special forces conduct operations in Sudan against the Russian Wagner PMC and their local allies from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who tried to stage a coup d'état in April. pic.twitter.com/4ojzFXWLqx
— Clash Report (@clashreport) October 6, 2023
Bellingcat was able to geolocate it to the Al Markiyat Mountains west of Omdurman (15.708352, 32.426962). Here’s how.
The hills in the background can be compared to this location using a panorama in Google Earth Pro.
Further confirmation came in the form of an elongated building with a white roof highlighted in the green box in the image below. In the distance, to the right of the first building, there is another building or group of buildings, which are highlighted in purple.
These structures can be seen from the arrow’s field of view, as highlighted by the red triangle in the Google Earth image below.
Another indication that this video was filmed in at least the Middle East or North Africa is the empty bottles and cans lying on the ground next to the soldier. The blue cap bottle label seen on the back is from Lavie, an Egyptian bottled water brand. The yellow and black can between the two bottles is labeled LiftUp, a Saudi energy drink. The brand of the third bottle with a green cap is unclear.
But are there any useful clues as to this man’s affiliation? Is he a Ukrainian paramilitary? Neither the weapon nor the camouflage pattern can answer this important question unequivocally.
The camouflage features on the man’s pants resemble a Multicam pattern, according to Camopedia, an independent project cataloging military camouflage patterns. It is important to note that this template cannot be used to definitively identify this person; As New Lines magazine wrote in an article about the successful camouflage in May, Multicam patterns are now “appearing on all sides of today’s tangled conflicts,” including between Russia and Ukraine. Bellingcat also found several private companies online that sell tactical gear and clothing with Multicam camouflage patterns.
A firearms expert who goes by the pseudonym Caliber Obscura told Bellingcat that the exact model of the firearm is probably impossible to determine, partly due to the quality of the footage and partly because it is covered with camouflage tape. “This is a modern bolt-action rifle with a suppressed bolt, similar to those used by special operations forces around the world,” said a Bellingcat analyst.
Another part of the video being circulated shows four men in uniform lying behind rifles. They are located on a mountain range with terrain similar to the one we saw in the previous scene with the man with the rifle. The camera shoots the men from behind, from a short distance.
A closer look at the landscape, comparing it to the Google Earth panorama, shows that this is the same hill where the lone gunman was spotted in another video. Notable are the hill in the distance (highlighted in red box below), the rocky outcrop to the left of the men, highlighted in blue.
The rest of the videos in the compilation circulating on social media show drone footage similar to footage analyzed by CNN in September, mostly of suicide drones similar to those used in Ukraine. A CNN investigation concluded that Ukrainian special forces were “probably” behind the strikes on the Wagner-backed militia in Sudan.
Bellingcat was able to geo-locate several pieces of new drone footage included in the compilation. However, their location is different from the locations in Sudan where CNN reported drone strikes last month.
The first drone footage showed luxurious townhouses with gardens. The camera zooms in and we see a cloud of smoke coming from the side of the townhouse in the center of the images below. We managed to geolocate the footage ( 15.656855, 32.514080 ), a house on Al-Amin El-Karab Street in Khartoum, on the banks of the Nile River, which separates Omdurman from the Sudanese capital.
The second shot from the selection first offers a view of the city from afar.
As the drone gets closer, we can see more clearly the area that was targeted.
The matches in this frame correspond to the Abu Rof area in eastern Omdurman, shown in Google Earth satellite images (15.658564, 32.504158).
We were also able to geolocate a third drone video that was included in a compilation circulating online. This video shows strikes in the Wad Nubawi area of Omdurman (15.661269, 32.489888).
The 4th part of the drone video shows 5 hits on nearby characteristic buildings (highlighted by Bellingcat with the green box in the image below) and white high-rise buildings in urban areas (Yellow rectangles). A useful landmark in this complex urban environment is a roadside sign between two obvious objects, highlighted by a small red frame.
Bellingcat geolocated this video to Wad Nubawi area in Omdurman ( 15.659761, 32.498806 ).
All images are from video compilation, Bellingcat annotation
A fifth drone shot showed strikes around the square in the Abu Rof area of Omdurman (15.659942, 32.503282). Several of these target buildings adjoin a courtyard near the edge of the plaza at (15.659994, 32.502753).
The sixth drone footage shows a strike on a building just a few blocks from the aforementioned square, also in the Abu Rof area at (15.659434, 32.501828).
The exact purpose of these strikes cannot be determined from these recordings alone, nor can the exact identity of the drone operator. However, the footage was not released online before the video surfaced, so the strike was most likely a recent one.
(The video montage includes three clips that the Belling Cat couldn’t find: one showing a sniper shooting from what might have been a truck, another showing a shooting in an urban area at night, and a third showing a man on a chalkboard.) A large-caliber machine gun is fired at the colored roof.).
These pictures appeared after reports of increased cooperation between Ukraine and African countries. 23.09 President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with the head of the Provisional Council of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burkhan, during the landing at Shannon Airport in Ireland.
According to Zelenskyi, they discussed “common security challenges, namely the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia.”
However, while Bellingcat can confirm that this new footage was indeed shot in Sudan, it is still impossible to draw an unequivocal conclusion from open sources that the footage shows a Ukrainian special forces operation.