The US accuses the Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group of fomenting the war in Sudan

The Russian mercenary group Wagner Group is sending surface-to-air missiles at one of the sides in the Sudanese war, fueling the conflict and destabilizing the region, the finance ministry said this week in announcing sanctions against a Wagner commander.

Wagner’s role in Sudan is part of a growing presence in Africa aimed at undermining US and French influence and taking advantage of African countries’ mining wealth, using the proceeds to fund Russia’s war in Ukraine , experts said.

Wagner has been present in Sudan since 2017, providing security services and overseeing gold mining concessions. The finance ministry said on Thursday that “the Wagner Group has provided Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces with surface-to-air missiles to fight the Sudanese military, adding to a protracted armed conflict that is only leading to further chaos in the region.”

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

The Biden administration has warned of Wagner’s presence in Sudan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the mercenaries “simply bring more death and destruction” where they operate.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

The finance ministry on Thursday imposed sanctions on Wagner’s chief in Mali, Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, because the group may seek help in Mali to secure military equipment for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Maslov has been working “in close cooperation” with Malian officials and is arranging meetings between regional governments and Wagner’s head Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to the finance ministry.

“The Wagner Group may be trying to cover up its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine, including by working through Mali and other countries where it has a foothold,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Wagner’s associates “may have attempted to work through Mali to acquire war equipment such as mines, unmanned aerial vehicles, radar and counter-battery systems for use in Ukraine,” the department said.

The accusation from Washington comes after a leaked US intelligence document suggested that Mali’s interim president Assimi Goita, an army officer who seized power in a coup, reportedly offered to source arms from Turkey on behalf of the Wagner Group.

This undated photo, distributed by the French military, shows three Russian mercenaries, right, in northern Mali.French Army via AP file

The document, part of a trove of top-secret Defense Department materials that surfaced on the social media platform Discord, stated that Wagner associates met with Turkish contacts in early February to purchase weapons and equipment for Wagner’s operations in Mali and Ukraine.

“In addition, Malian transitional president Goita had confirmed that Mali could acquire weapons from Turkey on behalf of Vagner,” said the document, which was obtained by NBC News and other news outlets.

US authorities have charged Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, 21, with leaking the classified documents.

Wagner in Africa

Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told lawmakers in January that Wagner’s access to gold mines in Mali and the Central African Republic “directly funds” operations in Ukraine. Wagner units play a vital role on the battlefield in Ukraine, relying heavily on captives for infantry combat.

Wagner’s broader goal was to strengthen Moscow’s influence in Africa, experts said.

Wagner has built his logistical capability in both Libya and Sudan, leveraging his ties to local allies led by rebel commanders, said Nathalia Dukhan, a senior researcher at the Sentry, a nonprofit that focuses on multinational predatory networks.

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

In Sudan, Wagner has tried to use Hemeti’s RSF as proxies for their operations in the Central African Republic and Chad, Dukhan said.

While tactics may vary, Wagner is trying to project Russian influence into Africa, she said. “Ultimately, it will adopt approaches that serve its geostrategic objectives, expansionist agenda and further its business interests,” Dukhan said.

According to a leaked intelligence document that first appeared on the Discord platform, in February a Wagner associate, Vitaliy Perfilyev, proposed launching an anti-US media campaign in the Central African Republic after media reports reported that Washington was trying to convince the government to break its rules. ties to the mercenary equipment.

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

US authorities previously called Wagner a “transnational criminal organization” and penalized its top leaders.

Leave a comment