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Russia's Mercenary Wagner Group Faces Further Sanctions

Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, Screenshot

Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group faces more sanctions for “human rights abuses” in Africa and Ukraine. Africa is increasingly important to Russia -- isolated by the West since the invasion of Ukraine.

Infographics: Wagner Group Faces Further Sanctions

The sanctions come as French President Emmanuel Macron visits Africa to counter Russian efforts to dislodge France from the continent.

Last month, Paris was forced to withdraw its 400 special forces troops from Burkina Faso after demands from the Russian-backed junta that took power in September 2022.

According to a new report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin -- a historically close ally of President Vladimir Putin -- praised the new junta leader immediately after the coup, indicating Wagner recognized the coup as an opportunity to expand into the country.

Prigozhin’s Wagner Group is a 50,000-strong private military company (PMC) -- a supplier of mercenary troops -- it also supports political influence operations and controls economic entities such as mining companies. For years it has been accused of human rights abuses and war crimes in Ukraine and worldwide in support of Putin’s regime.

Until recently, the Kremlin had denied Wagner PMC’s very existence, and Wagner’s African partners have kept the group’s operations secretive. However, Wagner’s public profile changed dramatically following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Prigozhin -- who had denied any link to Wagner -- publicly acknowledged founding the group, now a registered legal entity headquartered in St Petersburg.

Last week, the U.S. designated Wagner as a “transnational criminal organization,” allowing it to impose even stricter sanctions on the group. On Saturday, the EU added 11 individuals and seven entities tied to the paramilitary group to its list for asset freezes and travel bans. The EU already sanctioned the Wagner Group itself in 2021.