A mural praises the Russian Wagner group and its mercenaries fighting in Ukraine on March 30, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Pierre Crom | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Thursday announced a slew of fresh sanctions and additional measures targeting Russia’s private military firm, the Wagner Group, saying it’s engaged in an “ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity” in Ukraine, the Central African Republic and Mali.
The Treasury Department identified the Wagner Group, led by Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin, as a “significant transnational criminal organization.”
In the Central African Republic and Mali, Treasury said “Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass execution, rape, child abductions and physical abuse.” It also stands accused of destabilizing governments in Africa and targeting women, children and other civilians in Ukraine, attacking schools and hospitals and forcibly relocating civilians, among other human rights violations.
Last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House that U.S. intelligence estimates indicate the Wagner Group has at least 50,000 personnel in Ukraine, most of them recruited for the fight from Russian prisons.
White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby (not pictured) presents images that allege railcar movement between Russia and North Korea during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2023.
Leah Millis | Reuters
“Our message to any company that is considering providing support to Wagner is simply this, Wagner is a criminal organization that is continuing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses,” Kirby added.
Kirby also slammed North Korean weapon deliveries to Russia used by Wagner, including infantry rockets and missiles.
Thursday’s sanctions on six individuals and 12 entities also target “the infrastructure that supports battlefield operations in Ukraine, including producers of Russia’s weapons and those administering Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.”
Treasury sanctioned Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov, the Russian chairman of the already-sanctioned Tupolev Public Joint Stock Company, for his work in supporting Moscow’s aerospace sector. His wife, Gulsina Akhatovna Minnikhanova was also designated for being the primary registered owner of most of Minnikhanov’s properties and accepting bribes.
Treasury also announced sanctions against companies affiliated with Russia’s defense industrial complex:
- Russian cargo airline JSC Aviacon Zitotrans for transporting military equipment like rockets, helicopter parts and warheads.
- Ural Civil Aviation Factory for repairing unmanned aerial vehicles used in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
- Russian manufacturer Almaz-Antey for its work developing anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems.
Additionally, Treasury is imposing sanctions on multiple entities and individuals involved in the paramilitary group’s colossal global network.
- Joint Stock Company Terra Tech, a Russian-based technology firm, for providing space and aerial imagery to the Wagner Group.
- China’s Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute and its subsidiary Spacety Luxembourg for providing radar satellite imagery over Ukrainian locations.
- Joint Stock Company Research and Production, a Russian space company supporting Russia’s military activities in Ukraine.
“As sanctions and export controls on Russia form our international coalition continue to bite, the Kremlin is desperately searching for arms and support — including through the brutal Wagner Group,” Treasury Secretary Yellen wrote in a statement announcing the measures.
“Today’s expanded sanctions on Wagner, as well as new sanctions on their associates and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, will further impede Putin’s ability to arm and equip his war machine,” she added.
Further, the State Department issued sanctions against one individual and four entities associated with already-designated Russian Oligarch Vladimir Potanin.
State is also designating Sergei Adonev, a Putin financier, as well as flagging two of his yachts and one aircraft as blocked property.
In addition, State announced steps to impose visa restrictions on 531 members of the Russian military for their role in Ukraine.
“The United States is steadfast in our resolve against Russia’s aggression and other destabilizing behavior worldwide,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote in a statement.
“Today’s designations will further impede the Kremlin’s ability to arm its war machine that is engaged in a war of aggression against Ukraine, and which has caused unconscionable death and destruction,” he added.