Washington, DC – The United States has accused Russia’s Wagner Group of providing surface-to-air missiles to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), one side in Sudan’s ongoing conflict that has displaced nearly 1.3 million people.
Thursday’s allegation against the mercenary group came as the US Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on Wagner’s leader in Mali, accusing him of trying to obtain weapons for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
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The surface-to-air missiles in Sudan have contributed to “a prolonged armed conflict that only results in further chaos in the region”, the Treasury said in a statement.
The RSF and the Sudanese military — led by two rival generals — have been locked in a fight to control the state and its resources since mid-April, one that has killed hundreds of people.
Washington, meanwhile, has helped broker several ceasefire deals since the violence broke out. On Monday, the warring sides agreed to a weeklong truce, but as with previous ceasefire agreements, residents have reported continued clashes.
The US says its primary aim in Sudan is to reduce the violence before working towards a permanent end to the fighting and returning the country to civilian rule. Rights groups have cautioned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the conflict continues.
Last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced concern about the prospect of Wagner’s involvement in Sudan, saying the group “simply brings more death and destruction” with it.
“It’s very important that we not see its further engagement in Sudan. And I know a number of countries are very concerned with that prospect,” he said.
US scrutinises Wagner activity in Mali
On Thursday, the Treasury also said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “resorted to relying on the Wagner Group to continue his war of choice” in Ukraine, which has been under a full-scale invasion since February 2022.
As part of the announcement, the US imposed sanctions on Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, the head of Wagner in Mali, a landlocked country in western Africa.
“The Wagner Group may be attempting to obscure 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 said. “The United States opposes efforts by any country to assist Russia through the Wagner Group.”
Early in 2023, the US labelled Wagner a “transnational criminal organisation” and imposed sanctions on its top leaders.
The State Department also accused Wagner earlier this week of seeking to smuggle “material acquisitions to aid Russia’s war” in Ukraine through Mali using false paperwork.
“In fact, there are indications that Wagner has been attempting to purchase military systems from foreign suppliers and route these weapons through Mali as a third party,” spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Monday.
“We have not seen, as of yet, any indications that these acquisitions have been finalised or executed, but we are monitoring the situation closely.”