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US introduces new sanctions targeting Russia’s Wagner mercenary group

<i>Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>The US introduces new sanctions targeting Russia's Wagner mercenary group. This general view shows the 'PMC Wagner Centre'
AFP via Getty Images
Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images
The US introduces new sanctions targeting Russia's Wagner mercenary group. This general view shows the 'PMC Wagner Centre'

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

The US Treasury Department on Thursday designated the Wagner Group, a Russian private mercenary organization heavily involved in the war in Ukraine, as a significant transnational criminal organization, and imposed a slew of sanctions on a transnational network that supports it.

The US Department of State concurrently announced a number of sanctions meant to “target a range of Wagner’s key infrastructure — including an aviation firm used by Wagner, a Wagner propaganda organization, and Wagner front companies,” according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“As Russia’s military has struggled on the battlefield, Putin has resorted to relying on the Wagner Group to continue his war of choice. The Wagner Group has also meddled and destabilized countries in Africa, committing widespread human rights abuses and extorting natural resources from their people,” the Treasury Department said in a press release.

In addition to the measures targeting the Wagner Group — which were previewed by the White House last week — both agencies announced sanctions against a wide group of individuals and companies tied to Russia’s war in Ukraine. They are the latest US punitive measures against the Kremlin and its proxies as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war approaches its second year with no signs of abating.

“This action 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,” Blinken said in a statement.

The Treasury Department announced sanctions on a number of individuals and companies tied to Moscow’s defense industrial complex, as well as Putin allies and their family members, and two people involved with Russia’s attempts to annex parts of Ukraine.

The State Department also announced sanctions on “three individuals for their roles as heads of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, which has been reported to facilitate the recruitment of Russian prisoners into the Wagner Group,” a Deputy Prime Minister who also serves as the Minister of Industry and Trade,” “the Chairman of the Election Commission of the Rostov Region,” a network tied to an already-sanctioned Russian oligarch, and a financier to Putin, according to Blinken.

In addition, the State Department announced it will take steps to impose visa restrictions “on 531 members of the Russian Federation military for actions that threaten or violate the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine.”

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby last week previewed the significant transnational criminal organization designation and forthcoming sanctions against the Wagner group, telling reporters Friday, “These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity.”

Among the companies sanctioned by the Treasury Department for their ties to the Wagner Group and its leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, are Joint Stock Company Terra Tech, a “Russia-based technology firm that supplies space imagery acquired by commercially active satellites, as well as aerial images acquired by unmanned systems,” and a China-based entity “that has provided Terra Tech synthetic aperture radar satellite imagery orders over locations in Ukraine.”

“These images were gathered in order to enable Wagner combat operations in Ukraine,” the Treasury Department said.

In addition to sanctions related to the Wagner Group’s significant involvement in the war in Ukraine, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions for its illicit activities in the Central African Republic. The group was re-designated “for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence, or abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law in relation to the CAR.”

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