Is Ukraine hunting Russia's blood gold traffickers in Africa?

  • Why the time for Ukraine to mirror late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's independent covert action teams in its existential fight against Russia is now. 
  • Ukranian special services are on the move.
  • How the Russian economy is being floated by tan illicit flow of gold.

A soldier with the insignia of an owl clutching a sword pointed at a blackened map of Russia on his uniform stands over three men kneeling in the dirt. The three captives, a Russian and two of African origin, are bound, blindfolded, and topless as the soldier, wearing the emblem of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine (GUR),questions them. 

(Photo : Getty Images) Russian Military

The soldier is part of an elite Ukrainian special operations intelligence unit known for operating far beyond Ukraine's borders and in some of the world's most difficult and complex environments. The three prisoners are mercenaries, Wagner PMC fighters dispatched from the Central African Republic into Sudan on behalf of the Kremlin. 

video of this moment, posted by the Kyiv Post on February 5th, demonstrates the widening reach of Ukraine's military as it fights to survive going into the second year of Russia's illegal war of aggression. It also appears to confirm the months of speculation that Ukrainian special forces teams have been fighting on the side of the Sudanese Armed Forces against the Wagner-supported Rapid Support Forces (RSF). 

Russia's Illegal Gold Trade

In September 20, 2023, CNN reported that Ukrainian special services were "likely" behind last month's drone strikes against the RSF near the capital of Sudan. The RSF, a paramilitary group that evolved out of the Janjaweed militias involved in the former regime's genocidal campaign in Darfur, has been fighting for control of the country since April. 

The Kremlin's backing of the RSF through its Wagner proxies, particularly since the RSF controls a significant part of Sudan's gold mining industry, ensures the flow of illicit gold into Russian coffers. Wagner subsidiary, Meroe Gold, has been mining gold in territory controlled by RSF forces since 2017. In exchange, the RSF has been the primary recipient of the Wagner supplied surface-to-air missiles and other weapons being used against the Sudanese Armed Forces. RSF gold goes out, Wagner weapons come in. Until those weapons convoys drive into the kill zone of a drone or rifle operated by a Ukrainian special forces operator. 

Operationally, Ukraine doesn't seem to have a whole lot to gain by taking shots at Wagner in faraway Sudan. Politically speaking, there is some symbolic benefit to taking the fight to the enemy wherever it might be; but a Kremlin that views its mercenaries as little more than cannon fodder for the grinder is not likely to be swayed by such efforts. 

Democracy is Failing

But targeting the African blood gold supply to the Russian war machine is more than a means of bolstering Ukrainian moral. For the Ukrainians, outgunned and outmanned, up against a Russian economy now geared almost entirely toward producing arms and ammunition, and with a United States on the verge of betrayal-both of Ukraine and the free world-cutting off the Kremlin's source of African blood gold is critical to Ukraine's survival. 

Such an effort will take more than the disruption of the ground convoys and air shipments coming out of Sudan or any of the other gold producing countries though. It is those sitting at the top of that blood gold supply chain who must be disrupted. It is they who are the roots of the demand for that blood gold who must be severed. 

In a world where the shining light of democracy continues to retreat from the darkness of murderous regimes like Vladimir Putin's; in a world where Ukraine's flickering light stands alone between the Western world and unfettered authoritarianism; in a world where those who dare to be free are forever silenced with a cry for liberty still in their throat; the time for Ukraine to cut off the demand for the African blood gold sustaining the Kremlin's war is now. 

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