US designates Russia’s Wagner Group as criminal organization

The US formally designated Russia's Kremlin-affiliated Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization on Thursday and sanctioned a slew of associated targets.

The blacklisting includes eight individuals, 16 entities, and four planes, according to the Treasury Department, which said they seek to target "the infrastructure that supports battlefield operations in Ukraine, including producers of Russia’s weapons and those administering Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine."

“As sanctions and export controls on Russia from our international coalition continue to bite, the Kremlin is desperately searching for arms and support – including through the brutal Wagner Group – to continue its unjust war against Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“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.

The decision to designate Wagner as a transnational criminal organization is based upon the "transcontinental threat" it poses, including the being responsible for allegedly targeting women, children, and other civilians, attacks on schools, hospitals, and religious sites, and forced displacement, the Treasury said.

It pointed in particular to the group's activities in the Central African Republic.

Among the companies sanctioned for allegedly aiding Wagner are Joint Stock Company Terra Tech, a Russia-based satellite and aerial imaging company, Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. LTD, a China-based company that has aided Terra Tech with images of Ukraine, and its Luxembourg-based subsidiary.

Additional individuals in the Central African Republic and United Arab Emirates (UAE) are also being sanctioned for aiding Wagner's operations in the war-torn African nation. Kratol Aviation, a UAE-based firm, is being placed on the US blacklist for allegedly providing aircraft to Wagner.

The State Department also sanctioned three individuals tied to Russia's jail system for allegedly helping Wagner recruit prisoners, as well as a deputy prime minister, and one individual and four entities associated with Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"The United States is sanctioning individuals and entities linked to Russia’s para-military Wagner Group and its head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin – including its key infrastructure and associated front companies, its battlefield operations in Ukraine, producers of Russia’s weapons, and those administering Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine," he said.

Source: Anadolu Agency