In an effort to degrade Russia’s ability to wage its war in Ukraine, the US Treasury Department on Thursday designated Russian private military company Wagner Group, which they say has been helping Russia’s military, as a “significant transnational criminal organization” as it unveiled a new batch of sanctions against Russia.
Its declaration freezes any US assets that the private military company may have and prohibits American citizens from providing it with funds, goods, or services.
The US also imposed additional sanctions against the Wagner Group as part of the action targeting dozens of people and entities another executive order, accusing the group founded by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin of involvement in Kremlin-backed combat operations around the world.
The Treasury explained in a statement that apart from Ukraine, where the PMC is fighting with Russian troops, Wagner personnel have also engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity – including mass executions, attacks on hospitals, rape, child abductions, the targeting of women, children or civilians including through forced displacement, and physical abuse – in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali.
It also targeted entities and individuals linked to Russia’s defense industrial complex and supporting the Wagner Group’s military operations, including Russia-based Joint Stock Company Terra Tech and China-based Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. LTD.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement that the expanded sanctions on Wagner and on their associates and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, will further impede Moscow’s ability to additionally arm and equip Putin’s war machinery.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby warned that with about 50,000 personnel currently deployed to Ukraine – including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts recruited from Russian prisons – Wagner is becoming a rival power center to the Russian military, antagonizing other Russian ministries.
He caused some tensions in Moscow last week saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been increasingly turning to Wagner for military and intelligence support.