U.S. Sanctions the Head of the Wagner Group in Mali

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned the head of Wagner Group's paramilitary units for his role in facilitating Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

Wagner Group BillboardAn advertisement for people to join the Wagner Group, a PMC which has significantly aided Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. (Photo: Alexander Davronov, Wikimedia, License)Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, a senior security official appointed by Wagner Group leaders Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and Dmitriy Valeryevich Utkin to lead their mercenary forces in Mali, has been blacklisted by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for commanding paramilitary forces across war zones in Africa.

In addition to the private military company's operations in Africa, the U.S. believes that Maslov is involved in efforts to acquire and transport military equipment from Mali to Ukraine, where Russia has encountered strong resistance.

This involves a system in which the PMC purchases weapons from foreign suppliers and then smuggles them across multiple borders, using falsified documentation, until they ultimately reach Ukraine.

According to the Treasury, Russia's military shopping list includes mines, unmanned aerial vehicles, radar, and counterbattery systems.

When Russian tanks first crossed into Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin claimed that this "strategic military operation" would require no more than three days. That was 15 months ago.

The action against Maslov aims to "disrupt a key operative supporting the group's global activities," stated Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

"The presence of the Wagner Group on the African continent destabilizes any country that allows the deployment of the group's resources on its territory."

The Wagner Group has assisted several of the Kremlin's military operations worldwide, where traditional armed forces have faced challenges.

"As Russia's military has encountered difficulties on the battlefield, Putin has relied on the Wagner Group to continue his chosen war," noted the Treasury. "The Wagner Group has also interfered in and destabilized countries in Africa, committing widespread human rights abuses and exploiting natural resources from their people."

One example is the ongoing armed conflict in Sudan. Since rival factions of the country's military began fighting each other last month, the PMC has supplied surface-to-air missiles to the Rapid Support Forces for use against the army, thereby prolonging the violence and spreading chaos in the region, according to the U.S.

The Treasury initially blacklisted the Wagner Group in June 2017. Since then, the U.S. has designated the PMC as a transnational criminal organization, and additional sanctions have been imposed following reports of "mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse" committed by its mercenaries across Africa.

The U.K., Australia, Canada, Japan, and the EU have also imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group for its crimes against humanity. The French parliament recently passed a resolution unanimously urging the EU to designate the group as a terrorist organization.