US to designate Wagner as transnational criminal group

Russia's private military company, the Wagner Group, is also facing additional sanctions with the US saying it poses a "transcontinental threat"

US to designate Wagner as transnational criminal group
US to designate Wagner as transnational criminal group
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DW

The US on Friday said that it will, in the coming week, be imposing additional sanctions on the Russian private military company, Wagner Group.

"Wagner is a criminal organization that is committing widespread atrocities and human rights abuses, and we will work relentlessly to identify, disrupt, expose, and target those assisting Wagner," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing.

Kirby said the designation will pave the way for tougher sanctions, and throttle its ability to do business globally.

The paramilitary group has been aiding Russian forces in the invasion of Ukraine.

US releases images of arms shipment

The White House released images of Russia receiving a shipment of arms from North Korea, which US intelligence said was destined for Wagner forces in Ukraine. Pyongyang has denied giving assistance to Moscow.

"These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity with these actions, and there'll be more to come,'' Kirby said.

Kirby also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been turning to Wagner for military support, leading to tensions in Moscow.

"We are seeing indications, including in intelligence, that tensions between Wagner and the Russian Defense Ministry are increasing," he said. "Wagner is becoming a rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian ministries," Kirby pointed out.

What is the Wagner Group?

The paramiltary group was first made up of elite, former Russian soldiers-turned-mercenaries.

Wagner has some 50,000 personnel fighting in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts that it has recruited from prisons, according to a US assessment.

The company, owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin — a close ally of Putin — is spending about $100 million (€94 million) a month in the fight, according to the US

The group has been accused of human rights abuses in Africa and Syria. It has faced US sanctions since 2017.

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