US bans exports to Wagner Group
The US Department of Commerce has labeled the Russian private military company Wagner Group a “military end user,” potentially restricting its access to any technology made with American equipment anywhere in the world.
Undersecretary for Industry and Security Alan Estevez called Wagner “one of the most notorious mercenary organizations in the world” in a statement released to Reuters on Wednesday.
Wagner has been under US sanctions since 2017, to little effect. Earlier this month, the State Department designated it an “entity of particular concern” with regard to religious freedom in Africa, putting it in the same category as Islamic State (ISIS), Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In November, the State Department claimed Wagner was seeking to purchase drones from Iran, and labeled the group as part of the Russian defense sector.
Commerce’s move falls short of the rumored designation of Wagner as a “terrorist” entity, advocated by some outspoken Democrats in Washington since this summer.
Wagner was founded in 2014, and has mainly operated as a security contractor in Africa and the Middle East. More recently, its members have taken part in battles with the Ukrainian military in the Donbass.
The group’s boss, Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, gave an ironic reaction to the news on Thursday.
“Of course, this will create problems for the repair depot and ammunition supply for the triple-sevens. Oh, and also the HAWK AA. Lovely system, but breaks down a lot, unfortunately,” he said, referring to the M-777 howitzers and Raytheon’s anti-aircraft rockets that the US has supplied to Kiev’s military, with some presumably getting captured.
“I hope that we will be able to order [parts] through Poland or the Baltic states, where we have close contacts with the defense ministries,” he added, needling the most anti-Russian NATO members.
Prigozhin has trolled the Western media and governments on many occasions, including in November when he “admitted” to meddling in US elections with a movie quote, which most US and EU outlets rushed to report at face value.