The UK has sanctioned 13 “despicable” men and businesses linked to Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group, which it accuses of being involved in the execution and torture of civilians in African nations.
The mercenary group’s top officials in Mali, Sudan and Central African Republic as well as associated businesses have been blacklisted and had their assets frozen, the Foreign Office in London announced on Thursday.
Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led a failed mutiny against Moscow last month, has already been sanctioned by Britain, along with several of his key commanders, for their part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Wagner Group’s head of operations in CAR, Konstantin Pikalov, known as Mr Prigozhin’s “right-hand man”, is among those named in the latest wave of sanctions.
The UK accused him of being “responsible for the Wagner Group’s torture and targeted killings of civilians”.
The leader of Wagner in CAR, Vitalii Perfilev, and his counterpart in Mali, Ivan Maslov, also appeared on the list.
Mr Maslov’s force, along with Malian troops, were responsible for killing at least 500 people in Moura in March 2022, “including summary executions as well as rape and torture”, the UK said.
Other names include businesses and people involved in threatening peace and stability in Sudan, including through spreading propaganda and providing military equipment.
M-Invest, a company that “acts as a front” for Wagner, was sanctioned for running “disinformation campaigns” to benefit the Sudanese government and threatening peace in the country.
The sanctions will restrict the financial freedom of the listed individuals and firms and prevent British citizens, companies and banks from dealing with them. Any assets they own in the UK will be frozen and travel bans have been issued.
The UK remains deeply concerned by the destabilising role Wagner plays” in Africa, the Foreign Office said.
The department said the group has a “grip on the security and economic environments” in the region and is exploiting natural resources.
Andrew Mitchell, Minister for Development and Africa at the UK’s Foreign Office, said: “The Wagner Group is committing atrocities in Ukraine, as well as acting with impunity in countries like Mali, Central African Republic and Sudan.
“Wherever Wagner operates, it has a catastrophic effect on communities, worsens existing conflicts and damages the reputations of countries that host them.
“These sanctions expose despicable individuals who have commissioned violations of international humanitarian law, holding them to account for the severe harm they are inflicting on innocent civilians for financial gain.”
The Wagner Group gained international notoriety after it emerged it had recruited convicts from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine.
The private military contractor has operated in Mali, Sudan and CAR for several years.
The announcement comes a week after Britain announced sanctions on six businesses providing funding and military equipment to the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Both sides have ben fighting for control of territory and the violence has forced thousands to flee their homes.