Russia’s ‘Wagner mercenary group’ hit with EU sanctions
The EU has imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organization deployed around the world, which Western observers have long claimed is secretly aligned with the Kremlin.
European diplomats agreed to bring in the sanctions on Monday, after drafts of the plan were shared with the media the week before. Officials accuse the group of working to destabilize countries in eastern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa, with one document stating that Wagner “is responsible for serious human rights abuses in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan and Mozambique, which include torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings.”
In October, a group of UN experts reported that civilians in the Central African Republic “have been violently harassed and intimidated by so-called ‘Russian instructors’ from the Wagner Group.” Earlier this year, the UN claimed that Wagner was “committing systemic and grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations, including arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and summary execution.”
The measures target the group with an asset freeze, as well as going after eight individuals, all Russian citizens, and three firms linked to the contractor. EU representatives approved the plan unanimously in a vote in Brussels on Monday.
The Wagner Group first came to prominence in 2014, when media reported its troops were fighting in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. Western authorities and media have claimed that the organization is working with the Kremlin and is secretly a unit of the Russian Ministry of Defense, used in military situations where Moscow doesn’t want to be seen taking part. Reuters reported last week that more than a dozen people with ties to the group have previously shared that they carried out combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that the contractor represents the Russian state. In 2018, Putin said that if the group wasn’t violating Russian law, it had the right to work and promote its interests abroad.