US sanctions two Wagner-linked firms in Central African Republic

Sanctions aim to ‘counter Russia’s destabilizing activities in Africa’, US Treasury Department says.

A fighter of the Wagner mercenary group
This file photo shows fighters with the Wagner private mercenary group in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in 2023 [File: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

The United States has sanctioned two firms in the Central African Republic (CAR) it says are linked to the Russian Wagner Group, as part of what the US government says is a push to “counter Russia’s destabilizing activities in Africa”.

In a statement on Thursday, the US Treasury Department accused Mining Industries and Logistique Economique Etrangere of enabling Wagner security operations and “illicit mining endeavors” linked to the mercenary force.

The department said Mining Industries was sanctioned for leasing aircraft from another sanctioned Emirati firm that Wagner used to transport personnel and equipment across Africa.

Logistique Economique Etrangere was sanctioned for receiving “hundreds” of shipments of heavy materials from another CAR-based company – which was sanctioned in March this year – that were also likely intended for Wagner-linked illicit mining activities, it said.

“The Russia-backed Wagner Group and its network of businesses have exploited the people and natural resources of the Central African Republic to advance the group’s agenda,” Treasury official Brian Nelson said in the statement.

“The United States will continue to use its sanctions authorities to disrupt those supporting Russia’s destabilizing activities in Africa.”

US President Joe Biden’s administration in 2023 formally labelled the Wagner Group a “transnational criminal organization”, unveiling a wave of sanctions against the mercenary force.

In 2022, Human Rights Watch also accused Wagner mercenaries of having “summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians” in CAR between 2019 and 2021.

The group was previously controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin until his death in a plane crash last August.

The US sanctions imposed on Thursday freeze the targeted entities’ assets in the country and prevent any US citizens or entities from doing business with them.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies