Treasury to classify the Wagner Group as a significant transnational criminal organization

The US Treasury Department will impose additional sanctions on Russia’s private military company, the Wagner Group, which is helping the Russian military in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced Friday that the Treasury will designate Wagner as a significant transnational criminal organization in the coming days. He said the designation would allow the administration to hit Wagner with tougher sanctions and restrict its ability to do business around the world.

The White House also released pictures of Russia delivering weapons from North Korea that it said were intended to help bolster Wagner’s forces as they fight alongside Russian troops in Ukraine. The Biden administration first accused North Korea last month of supplying Russia with infantry rockets and missiles. North Korea denies helping Russia.

“These actions recognize the transcontinental threat posed by Wagner, including through the ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity with these actions, and with more to come,” Kirby said.

The US government on Friday also released an image dated November 18 that it said shows Russian rail cars traveling from Russia to North Korea. Kirby said the next day North Korea loaded those rail cars with shipping containers and the train returned to Russia.

Kirby said the information was shared with the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea.

The White House has increasingly expressed alarm about Wagner’s growing involvement in the war as it has been increasingly active in the fierce fighting in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The White House said that in some instances Russian military officials had even been “under Wagner’s orders.”

Kirby said the US now assesses that Wagner has about 50,000 personnel fighting in Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts the company recruited from prisons.

The US assessed that Wagner, owned by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, was spending about $100 million a month on the war. Prigozhin has also publicly taken credit for some of Russia’s recent advances in eastern Ukraine.

“We are seeing signs, including intelligence, that tensions between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense are increasing,” Kirby added. “Wagner became a rival to the Russian military power center and other Russian ministries. Publicly, Prigozhin and his warriors criticized the Russian generals and defense officials for their performance in Ukraine.

Wagner Group mercenaries have also been accused by Western countries and UN experts many human rights abuses throughout Africa, including the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali. Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that he had designated the Wagner Group as an “entity of particular concern” for its activities in the Central African Republic.

Wagner has faced US sanctions since 2017. The Commerce Department last month unveiled new export restrictions targeting Wagner in a bid to further restrict its access to the technology. and supplies.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville contributed reporting.

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