© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A person carrying a camouflage uniform walks out of PMC Wagner Centre, which is a mission carried out by the businessman and founding father of the Wagner non-public army group Yevgeny Prigozhin, in the course of the official opening of the workplace block in Saint P
By Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. on Thursday stated Russian mercenary drive Wagner Group could also be working by way of Mali and different nations to cover its efforts to amass army gear to be used in Ukraine, and accused it of supplying a Sudanese paramilitary with surface-to-air missiles.
The U.S. Treasury Division stated in a press release it imposed sanctions on Wagner’s chief in Mali because it stated the group’s staff could have been trying to work by way of the west African nation to amass gear resembling mines, drones, radar and counterbattery programs to be used in Ukraine.
The U.S. has repeatedly warned of what it says are Wagner’s destabilizing actions and has ramped up sanctions towards the non-public military following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine final yr. Wagner mercenaries have fought alongside common Russian troops in Ukraine, together with in among the most intense battles.
On Monday, State Division spokesperson Matthew Miller warned that Wagner was looking for to transit army gear by way of Mali. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s overseas ministry, on Wednesday dismissed the U.S. allegations as a “hoax.”
“Treasury’s sanctions towards essentially the most senior Wagner Group consultant in Mali establish and disrupt a key operative supporting the group’s world actions,” the Treasury’s Below Secretary for Terrorism and Monetary Intelligence Brian Nelson stated within the assertion.
“The Wagner Group’s presence on the African continent is a destabilizing drive for any nation that enables for the deployment of the group’s assets into their sovereign territory.”
The Treasury accused Wagner of supplying Sudan’s Speedy Help Forces (RSF) with surface-to-air missiles, which may give the paramilitary group a lift within the combating towards the Sudanese military, which is closely reliant on air strikes to focus on the RSF.
Combating between the 2 events that broke out final month has worsened a humanitarian disaster, pressured greater than 1.3 million folks to flee and threatened to destabilize a fragile area.
The pinnacle of the RSF, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, often known as Hemedti, has cultivated ties with Russia. Western diplomats in Khartoum stated in 2022 that Wagner was concerned in illicit gold mining in Sudan and was spreading disinformation.
Hemedti has beforehand stated he suggested Sudan to chop ties to Wagner after the U.S. imposed sanctions on the non-public army contractor. Wagner stated on April 19 that it was now not working in Sudan.
HEAD OF WAGNER GROUP IN MALI
The Treasury slapped sanctions on Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, who it described as the pinnacle of Wagner paramilitary items and its principal administrator based mostly in Mali, accusing him of working in shut coordination with Malian authorities officers to execute the group’s deployment in Mali.
Maslov additionally arranges conferences between Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founding father of the Wagner Group, and authorities officers from a number of African nations, the Treasury stated.
Thursday’s motion freezes any of Maslov’s U.S. property and usually bars Individuals from coping with him.
Mali’s authorities didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.
Western nations have raised considerations over Wagner’s actions in Mali since late 2021. The West African nation, whose leaders seized energy in a 2021 coup, and Russia have beforehand maintained that Russian forces there usually are not mercenaries however trainers serving to native troops with gear purchased from Russia.