The United States accused Russia’s Wagner Group in Mali of working to obtain military gear from Mali for Russia’s war in Ukraine and sending surface-to-air missiles to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan.
The US Treasury said in a statement Thursday that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had sanctioned the head of Wagner in Mali, Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, after it found that the Group employees may have been attempting to work through Mali to acquire warfighting equipment such as mines, drones, radar, and counterbattery systems for use in Ukraine.
The Treasury added that Maslov Maslov arranges meetings between Viktorovich Prigozhin and government officials from several African nations. Maslov has worked to carry out the Wagner Group’s interests in the extractive sector.
The measure freezes any assets of Maslov in the US and generally bars its citizens from doing business with him.
The Treasury accused Wagner of supplying the RSF with surface-to-air missiles to fight against Sudan’s army, contributing to a prolonged armed conflict that resulted in further regional chaos.
The commander of RSF, Mohamed Hamdan’ Hemedti’ Dagalo, has well-established relations with Russia.
Western diplomats in Khartoum said in 2022 that Wagner was involved in illegal gold mining in Sudan and was spreading misleading information.
Hemedti said he had advised Sudan to sever relations with Wagner after the US imposed sanctions on it. The group announced on April 19 that it was no longer operating in Sudan.
Clashes broke out last month in Sudan between the Sudanese armed forces led by Abdulfattah Burhan and the RSF, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the country and forcing more than 1.3 million people to flee their areas.
The Mali government has not yet responded to Washington’s accusations.
Washington has repeatedly warned of “Wagner’s destabilizing activities” and tightened sanctions on the private military group following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Wagner’s mercenaries fought alongside the regular Russian forces in Ukraine, especially in some of the fiercest battles, including those in Bakhmut.
On Monday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller warned that Wagner sought to move military equipment through Mali for use in Ukraine.
Later, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied the accusations, describing them as a “hoax.”
The US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said that the Treasury’s sanctions against Mali’s most senior Wagner Group representative identify and disrupt a key operative supporting the group’s global activities.
“The Wagner Group’s presence on the African continent is a destabilizing force for any country that allows for the deployment of the group’s resources into their sovereign territory.”