The United States plans to identify the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company active on the African continent, as a significant transnational criminal organization. The U.S. Treasury also plans to impose additional sanctions against Wagner this week, according to John Kirby, the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications.
“These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity,” said Kirby, speaking at a White House press conference.
“With these actions — and there will be more to come — our message to any company that is considering providing support to Wagner is simply this: Wagner is a criminal organization that is committing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses, and we will work relentlessly to identify, disrupt, expose, and target those who are assisting Wagner.”
Kirby focused on the role that fighters with Wagner, owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, have played in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Prigozhin, a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has criticized Russian military leaders and defense officials, with an end toward self-promotion that’s leading to tensions with Russia, said Kirby.
Kirby also released images to support claims made last month that North Korea is providing arms to Wagner Group.
However, Wagner fighters also have a growing presence on the African continent. In 2018, three journalists were killed in the Central African Republic while investigating the presence of Wagner fighters. The Russian fighters also are working in Mali.
In 2020, U.S. military officials said private Russian security groups were operating in at least 16 African nations, including Sudan and Libya.
Image: U.S. Treasury