US accuses Wagner Group of using Mali to raise funds and procure arms for Ukraine war

Protesters holds a banner reading ‘Thank you Wagner’, the name of the Russian private security firm present in Mali, during a demonstration organised by the pan-Africanist platform Yerewolo to celebrate France’s announcement to withdraw French troops from Mali, in Bamako.

  • The US says it is attempting to stop the Wagner Group from raising funds for the war in Ukraine.
  • It says the group is using Mali as a hub for procuring arms for the war.
  • Russia’s foreign affairs minister says the group’s operations in Africa, particularly in Mali and the Central Africa Republic, will continue without disturbance despite a brief mutiny by the Wagner Group against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The US has sanctioned entities linked to the Wagner Group in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), and advised countries in sub-Saharan Africa to “apply strengthened due diligence practices” in gold trade and mining.

These measures are targeted at containing and stopping the Russian paramilitary outfit’s capacity to raise funds for the ongoing war in Ukraine.

On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that despite a brief mutiny by the Wagner Group against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend, the group’s operations in Africa, particularly in Mali and the CAR, would continue without disturbance.

The group rebelled against the Russian government amid escalating tensions between the Russian Ministry of Defence and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner Group.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “The US is imposing sanctions on several entities in the CAR today for their connection to the transnational criminal organisation known as the Wagner Group and for their involvement in activities that undermine democratic processes and institutions in the CAR through illicit trade in the country’s natural resources.”

READ | Wagner Group to stay put in Africa with Putin’s blessing

As such, a key Wagner Group authority in the country, Andrey Nikolayevich Ivanov, would also be placed under sanctions, Blinken said.

Blinken said:

Wagner has used its operations in Mali both to obtain revenue for the group and its owner, Prigozhin, as well as to procure weapons and equipment to further its involvement in hostilities in Ukraine.

The US announced late in May that it had put Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, the Wagner Group’s leader in Mali; Colonel Moustaph Sangare, then commander of the 33rd Parachute Commando Regiment; and Major Lassine Togola, acting commander of the Autonomous Special Forces Battalion, under sanctions for similar activities.

According to the US, vast mining operations under the Wagner Group are critical for its existence beyond Russia’s foreign policy in Africa.

“The Wagner Group funds its brutal operations in part by exploiting natural resources in countries like the CAR and Mali. The US will continue to target the Wagner Group’s revenue streams to degrade its expansion and violence in Africa, Ukraine and anywhere else,” said US Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.

At the same time, the US Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, and the Agency for International Development issued a “unique business risk advisory focused on the gold sector across sub-Saharan Africa”.

“The advisory highlights the opportunities and specific risks raised by the gold trade across sub-Saharan Africa and encourages industry participants to adopt and apply strengthened due diligence practices to ensure that malign actors such as the Wagner Group are unable to exploit and benefit from the sector, which remains essential to the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent,” reads a statement issued by the Department of State.

People sit at the desk in the office in the 'PMC W

People sit at the desk in the office in the ‘PMC Wagner Centre’, associated with the founder of the Wagner private military group (PMC) Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block on the National Unity Day, in Saint Petersburg.

TOPSHOT - Members of Wagner group stand on the bal

Members of Wagner group stand on the balcony of the circus building in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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