The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Thursday, 26 January, declared Russian private military company Wagner, close to Putin’s regime, a transnational criminal organization and imposed sanctions on individuals and entities associated with it.
PMC Wagner (Wagner Group) is a Russian private military company led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin crony and the target of multiple U.S. sanctions. Wagner Group has been involved in Kremlin-backed combat operations worldwide to support Putin’s war against Ukraine. As Russia’s military has struggled on the battlefield, Putin has resorted to relying on the Wagner Group to continue his war of choice. The Wagner Group has also meddled and destabilized African countries, committing human rights abuses and extorting natural resources from their people.
Recognizing the Wagner group as a transnational criminal organization means freezing any U.S. assets of the group and prohibiting U.S. persons and entities from providing funds, goods, or services to the group.
Wagner was involved in mass executions, rapes, kidnappings of children
The decision is justified by the fact that the Wagner has been involved in serious criminal activities, in particular mass executions, rapes, kidnappings of children, and physical violence in countries around the world – among others, in the Central African Republic and Mali.
U.S. Treasury Department has also added a number of entities and individuals on different continents, supporting the activities of the Wagner PMCs, to the sanctions list.
Sanctions against Russian companies linked to Wagner
Among others, sanctions imposed on the Russian joint stock companies Terra Tech and BARL, the Chinese Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. LTD, and its Luxembourg representative office Spacety Luxembourg – they provided space and aerial images to the Wagner for military operations in Ukraine.
In total, the sanctions apply to six individuals and 12 entities associated with PMC Wagner or contributing to its activities.
The Wagner appeared in 2014 and was active in some countries where Russia has important interests – in particular Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Ukraine. They committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Wagner participates in Russia’s war against Ukraine
After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Wagner participated in the massacres of civilians. The PMCs now recruit prisoners from Russian prisons.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the United States estimates Wagner has about 50,000 personnel deployed to Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts recruited from Russian prisons.
Last month the White House said Wagner had taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine, in a sign of the group’s expanding role in that conflict. North Korea’s foreign ministry called the report groundless. Prigozhin denied taking delivery of arms from North Korea.
Back in 2017, the U.S. added the Wagner PMC to the trade blacklist, and late last year imposed new technology export restrictions on Wagner to further limit its capabilities because of its involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The European Union imposed restrictive measures against the Wagner Group back in December 2021.