The first tranche of sanctions targeted 3 individuals and two mining companies that work on behalf of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Putin ally who was indicted by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The US slapped sanctions on a Russian network tied to a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and on individuals accused of assisting Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and helping Moscow evade sanctions.
The first tranche of sanctions on Wednesday targeted three individuals and two mining companies that work on behalf of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Putin ally who was indicted by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller for attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election and who is believed to own the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company active in Libya, Syria and Ukraine.
“Yevgeny Prigozhin has an international network of supporters to spread his malign political and economic influence around the globe,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to target the ability of Prigozhin to conduct operations globally.”
The individuals targeted for their connections to Prigozhin are being designated for working on his behalf to "advance Russia’s influence in the Central African Republic (CAR)," the department said in a statement.
Two mining companies, M Finans, which is based in Russia, and CAR-based Lobaye Invest, have been sanctioned, as well as employees Dmitry Sergeevich Sytii, Yevgeniy Khodotov and Alexander Yuryevich Kuzin.
Five other individuals and five companies were sanctioned for aiding the FSB and allegedly helping Russia evade sanctions.
Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner Group
The story of the Wagner Group has primarily been told as the story of an influential businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin who bears a resemblance to Tolstoy’s protagonist Vronsky. He is an influential figure with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin who is also known as former ‘Hotdog Seller’ and ‘Putin’s Chef’ for having catering contracts with Kremlin, Wagner Group has earned notoriety for being a proxy front for Putin's wars in the Middle East and Europe and Prigozhin its enabler.
The group's presence was first reported in eastern Ukraine, where its mercenaries fought alongside pro-Russian forces, who'd revolted against the Eurocentric government of Ukraine.
Its first mission was to support the disarmament of Ukrainian military installations during the annexation of Crimea in 2014. By spring 2015, Wagner started to prepare for its next campaign: to become a crucial asset in support of Bashar al Assad in Syria.
Wagner Group has started deploying mercenaries on the front lines of the Libyan war following Russia’s decisive military intervention in Syria where hundreds of Wagner’s mercenaries were reportedly killed during clashes with the US forces as they attempted to seize an oil refinery in Syria in 2018.
Previously, the US Assistant Secretary for the Affairs of the Near East, David Schenker stated that the US was to work with European countries to place sanctions on Wagner, citing “the spectre of large-scale civilian killings" by the Wagner Group.