US sanctions entities tied to Russia's Wagner Group and Prigozhin over Africa activities

Washington stresses latest sanctions are unrelated to group's abandoned mutiny in Russia

Russian mercenaries board a helicopter in northern Mali. AP
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The US on Tuesday imposed sanctions on one person and four entities linked to Russia's Wagner Group as well as its leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Treasury Department announced.

“The Wagner Group funds its brutal operations in part by exploiting natural resources in countries like the Central African Republic and Mali,” said Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The US accused the newly sanctioned entities of engaging in illicit gold-related activities to fund the Wagner Group and support its armed forces in Ukraine and Africa. The person sanctioned, Andrey Ivanovic, is central to the mercenary group's operations in Mali.

Wagner has been most active in the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and Libya, and has been accused of engaging in human rights abuses in Africa.

“The United States will continue to target the Wagner Group’s revenue streams to degrade its expansion and violence in Africa, Ukraine and anywhere else,” the Treasury Department said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement said: "Death and destruction has followed in Wagner’s wake everywhere it has operated, and the United States will continue to take actions to hold it accountable."

Speaking to reporters ahead of the announcement, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the mercenary group's activities in Africa.

“They hurt local populations, they extract minerals and extract money from the communities where they operate," he said.

What caused the crisis between Moscow and the Wagner group?

What caused the crisis between Moscow and the Wagner group?

The Treasury Department also issued a new advisory focused on the gold sector highlighting the conflict and terror-financing risks as well as human rights abuses.

Mr Prigozhin and the Wagner Group have already been the target of sanctions from the US, although additional actions from Washington were expected this week.

Mr Miller stressed that Tuesday's sanctions were not tied to the Wagner Group's abandoned mutiny in Russia.

“These are actions that we are taking against Wagner not in relation to events that happened this weekend but for their prior activities,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had vowed to crush the mutiny, although a deal was struck with Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko would allow Mr Prigozhin and some of his fighters to go to Belarus.

Mr Lukashenko was quoted as saying by a state news agency on Tuesday that the Wagner leader “is in Belarus today”.

Updated: June 28, 2023, 6:43 AM