Thursday, July 18, 2024

US accuses Russia's Wagner Group mercenaries of fomenting war in Sudan


The Russian mercenary group Wagner Group has been sending surface-to-air missiles to one side in Sudan’s war, fueling the conflict and destabilizing the region, the Treasury Department said this week in sanctions against a Wagner commander. Announcing said.

Experts said Wagner’s role in Sudan is part of a growing presence in Africa aimed at undermining the influence of the US and France and profiting from the African countries’ mining wealth to help finance Russia’s war in Ukraine. .

Wagner has been present in Sudan since 2017, providing security services and overseeing gold mining concessions. The Treasury Department said Thursday that “Wagner Group is supplying Sudan’s Rapid Support Force with surface-to-air missiles to fight against Sudan’s military, contributing to a prolonged armed conflict that has Resulting in further chaos in the region.”

The Rapid Support Forces have been fighting the Sudanese army for control of the country since April, and the violence has left hundreds dead and more than a million displaced.

The Biden administration has warned about Wagner’s presence in Sudan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the mercenary organization “just brings more death and destruction” where it operates.

Russia’s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

The Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Ivan Alexandrovich Maslov, the head of Wagner in Mali, saying the group may be seeking help from Mali to secure military gear for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Maslov has worked “in close coordination” with Malian officials and arranged meetings between regional governments and Wagner’s head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to the Treasury Department.

“The Wagner Group may have attempted to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine, including by working through Mali and other countries,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Wagner employees “may be attempting to work through Mali to acquire munitions equipment such as mines, unmanned aerial vehicles, radars and counterbattery systems for use in Ukraine,” the department said.

The accusation from Washington comes after a leaked US intelligence document said that Mali’s interim president, Assimi Goïta, a military officer who seized power in a coup, allegedly bought weapons from Turkey on behalf of the Wagner Group. offered to receive.

230526-northern-mali-three-russian-mercenaries-ac-432p-10e7c0-6670401 This undated photo handed over by the French military shows three Russian mercenaries in northern Mali.French Army via AP File

The document, part of a trove of top-secret Defense Department material that surfaced on the social media platform Discord, states that Wagner allies in Mali and Ukraine began buying weapons and equipment for Wagner’s operations in early February. I met with Turkish contacts.

“Additionally, Goita, the chairman of the Malian Transition, confirmed that Mali could acquire weapons from Turkey on Wagner’s behalf,” according to the document, which was obtained by NBC News and other news outlets.

US authorities have charged 21-year-old Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira with leaking classified documents.

Wagner in Africa

Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told lawmakers in January that Wagner’s access to gold mines in Mali and the Central African Republic “directed money” to operations in Ukraine. Wagner units continue to play an important role on the battlefield in Ukraine, relying heavily on prison convicts for infantry fighting.

Experts said Wagner’s overarching objective is to increase Moscow’s influence in Africa.

Wagner is building up its logistics capacity in both Libya and Sudan, leveraging its ties to local allies led by rebel commanders, said Natalia Dukhan, a senior investigator at Sentry, a nonprofit that works with the multinational Predator Network. focuses on.

In Libya, Wagner has allied itself with Khalifa Haftar, who has waged war on the government in Tripoli, and in Sudan it has allied with Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemeti.

Dukhan said that in Sudan, Wagner has sought to use Hemati’s RSF as a proxy for his operations in the Central African Republic and Chad.

While its strategy may vary, Wagner is trying to project Russian influence into Africa, he said. “Ultimately, it chooses approaches that advance its geo-strategic objectives, expansionist agenda as well as its commercial interests,” Dukhan said.

According to a leaked intelligence document that first appeared on the Discord platform, an aide of Wagner’s, Vitaly Perfiliev, suggested launching an anti-US media campaign in the Central African Republic in February after media reports suggested that the Washington government Was working to persuade to break. Relation to mercenary organization.

The US and human rights groups have accused Wagner of committing atrocities in the Central African Republic, including summary executions and torture.

US authorities had previously designated Wagner as a “traditional criminal organization” and sanctioned its top leaders.