The United States is expanding sanctions against the Wagner Group, the Kremlin-backed paramilitary organization led by Yevgeniy Prigozhin. Members of the group have committed atrocities and human rights abuses in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world.
U.S. sanctions target Wagner’s key infrastructure and associated front companies, its connections to the gold and diamond sectors, its battlefield operations in Ukraine, producers of Russia’s weapons, and those administering Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine.
“This action,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “supports our goal to degrade Moscow’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine, to promote accountability for those responsible for Russia’s war of aggression and associated abuses, and to place further pressure on Russia’s defense sector.”
The Wagner Group reportedly deployed 50,000 personnel to Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts recruited from Russia’s prisons, according to the White House.
The Department of State’s newly announced sanctions include a range of Wagner’s key infrastructure – including an aviation firm used by Wagner, a Wagner propaganda organization, and Wagner front companies.
In addition, the State Department announced steps to impose visa restrictions on 531 members of the Russian Federation military for actions that threaten the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine.
Concurrently, the Department of the Treasury designated the Wagner Group for being responsible for its violence against civilians in the Central African Republic, among other reasons.
For the first time, the United States designated the Wagner Group as a Significant Transnational Criminal Organization, augmenting existing sanctions on the group. “Wagner personnel,” said the Treasury Department in a statement, “have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions and physical abuse in the Central African Republic and Mali.”
Expanded U.S. sanctions against the Wagner group recognize the transcontinental threat the group has become, including in Africa and in Russia’s brutal war of choice in Ukraine.
Secretary of State Blinken said, “The United States is steadfast in our resolve against Russia’s aggression and other destabilizing behavior worldwide.”