September 20, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Kathleen Magramo, Ed Upright, Sophie Tanno, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, September 21, 2023
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8:38 p.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Ukraine "likely" behind strikes on Wagner-backed forces in Sudan, military source tells CNN

From CNN's Victoria Butenko, Nima Elbagir, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Tamara Qiblawi, Allegra Goodwin, Andrew Carey, Pallabi Munsi, Mahamat Tahir Zene, Barbara Arvanitidis and Alex Platt

Ukrainian special services were likely behind a series of drone strikes and a ground operation directed against a Wagner-backed militia near Sudan’s capital, a CNN investigation has found, raising the prospect that the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spread far from the front lines. 

Speaking to CNN, a Ukrainian military source described the operation as the work of a “non-Sudanese military.” Pressed on whether Kyiv was behind the attacks, the source would only say that “Ukrainian special services were likely responsible.” 

The operation involved a series of attacks on the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is believed to be receiving assistance from Wagner, the Russian mercenary group, in its fight against the Sudanese army for control of the country. 

CNN was unable to independently confirm Ukraine’s involvement in the series of strikes. But video footage obtained by CNN revealed the hallmarks of Ukrainian-style drone attacks.

Two commercially available drones widely used by Ukrainians were involved in at least eight of the strikes, with Ukrainian text seen on the drone controller. Experts also said the tactics used — namely the pattern of drones swooping directly into their target — were highly unusual in Sudan and the wider African region. 

Covert strikes by Ukraine in Sudan would mark a dramatic and provocative expansion of Kyiv’s theater of war against Moscow. Aside from a string of Ukrainian drone attacks that hit deep inside Russian territory, Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive has been focused on the country’s occupied east and south.

Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were captured in the drone footage. Portions of those videos have been circulating on social media since Thursday. Footage of the ground operation has not previously been published. 

Read more about the apparent covert operation.

8:36 p.m. ET, September 19, 2023

Looming US government shutdown could cause disruption to Ukraine aid, Pentagon says

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann

US military aid and training for Ukrainian forces could be disrupted in the event of a US government shutdown, a Pentagon spokesperson warned on Tuesday.

The Pentagon would still be able to access equipment from its own stockpiles, which is where the majority of equipment sent to Ukraine comes from, in the event of a shutdown, given that the department still has billions of dollars' worth of funding remaining under the Presidential Drawdown Authority. 

But the delivery of that equipment, as well as the ongoing training of Ukrainian forces by the US, "could be impacted by furloughs of personnel and DoD's suspension" of all activities deemed not essential to US national security in the event of a shutdown, Pentagon spokesperson Chris Sherwood said.

Any impact on US support would come at a sensitive time in the conflict with Ukrainian troops in the midst of a critical counteroffensive against Russia.

Politico first reported on Sherwood's comments.

A possible shutdown could also impact the delivery and execution of aid provided under another program, known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which has funded the production of key equipment like Abrams tanks and training programs like F-16 pilot instruction.

The US is set to begin delivering 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in the coming weeks and expects to begin providing Ukrainian pilots with F-16-related language training "soon," Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz said on Monday.

"Work or delivery of any equipment funded on previous USAI notifications such as F-16 pilot training would continue, but execution could be impacted by furloughs and DoD's suspension of non-excepted activities," Sherwood said.

About the possible shutdown: The US government appears to be barreling toward a shutdown, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers have acknowledged that there will not be enough time before the September 30 deadline for either chamber to pass all 12 appropriations bills.

Instead, the House and Senate will have to find a short-term fix to allow them more time to negotiate, but it is unclear whether they will be able to do that.