US declares Wagner Group ‘transnational criminal organization’
Washington has designated the private military company (PMC) the Wagner Group a “significant transnational criminal organization,” the US Treasury Department said on Thursday as it unveiled a new batch of sanctions against Russia.
The US accused the company founded by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin of being engaged in “an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity” in both Ukraine, where the PMC is fighting with Russian troops, and several African nations.
The Wagner Group poses a “transcontinental threat,” the Treasury statement read, adding that the PMC “has been involved in Kremlin-backed combat operations around the world.” It referred specifically to Russia’s military effort in Ukraine, as well as alleging that the group had “also meddled and destabilized countries in Africa” such as the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali.
Apart from the Wagner Group, the US also imposed sanctions on eleven other entities and six individuals, including those it suspects of supporting the PMC’s operations. The list includes Russia- and China-based technology companies and a UAE-based aviation firm, as well as several CAR-based security companies allegedly linked to the Wagner Group.
A separate US sanction list also included in Thursday’s batch of restrictions targets the Russian defense industry and includes a cargo airline, a drone producer, and several technology companies.
Earlier this week, Prigozhin told RT that his company “has not committed any crimes.” The Wagner Group “eliminates only enemies of peace and commits no crimes,” the businessman said, while accusing the US of “preparing outlaws and terrorists all over the world so that there would be trouble everywhere – in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America.”
Prigozhin also said the US “fears” his company because it “kicked their asses” each time American intelligence officers tried to harm the PMC.