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Washington orders new sanctions against Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa

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A statue in Bangui, CAR, depicts Wagner Group soldiers protecting a woman and children.

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On May 30, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) ordered new sanctions measures to counter Russia’s destabilizing activities in Africa. OFAC issued new sanctions designations against two companies that are linked to Russia-based Private Military Company “Wagner” (Wagner Group) for enabling Wagner Group security operations and Wagner Group-linked illicit mining endeavors in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Accordingly, Mining Industries SARLU and Logistique Economique Etrangere SARLU were designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14024 for their Wagner-linked operations in the Central African Republic (CAR).

In making the announcement, Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said, “the United States will continue to use its sanctions authorities to disrupt those supporting Russia’s destabilizing activities in Africa.”  He further explained “the Russia-backed Wagner Group and its network of businesses have exploited the people and natural resources of the Central African Republic to advance the group’s agenda.”

Previous U.S. actions against the Wagner Group

A proxy paramilitary force of the Kremlin, the Wagner Group has conducted combat operations around the world, including in Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine.

The United States has sanctioned numerous entities and individuals globally that support the Wagner Group. The Wagner Group has committed widespread human rights abuses, and companies linked to the group have appropriated natural resources across multiple countries in Africa.

On June 20, 2017, OFAC designated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine. On November 15, 2022, the Department of State redesignated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O.14024 for operating or having operated in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy.

On January 26, 2023, OFAC redesignated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for being a foreign person that constitutes a significant transnational criminal organization. Wagner Group personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and other brutalities against innocents in the CAR and Mali. On the same day, OFAC designated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13667 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. The Wagner Group has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

The latest sanctioned entities

Mining Industries SARLU (Mining Industries) is a CAR-based mining company that the Wagner Group’s chief logistician, Valery Chekalov––who reportedly died alongside Prigozhin in August 2023 –– used to lease aircraft from Kratol Aviation (Kratol), a UAE-based aviation company. OFAC designated Kratol on January 26, 2023, pursuant to E.O. 13667 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the Wagner Group. The Wagner Group uses aircraft leased by Mining Industries to move personnel and equipment through CAR and elsewhere in Africa.

Logistique Economique Etrangere SARLU (Logistique) is a CAR-based company that in 2021 received hundreds of shipments of heavy materials from Limited Liability Company Broker Expert (Broker Expert), a Russia-based company linked to Prigozhin that has supported Russian interests in Ukraine and throughout Africa. OFAC designated Broker Expert on March 8, 2024, pursuant to E.O. 14024 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Bois Rouge. The shipments Logistique received from Broker Expert were likely intended for Wagner Group-linked illicit mining, such as developing a mining site or building a new processing plant.

OFAC designated Mining Industries pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Wagner Group, a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to E.O. 14024. OFAC designated Logistique pursuant to E.O. 14024 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Broker Expert, a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to E.O. 14024.

As a result of OFAC’s May 30 action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described in the listings that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in total, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

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