Treasury Sanctions Russian Proxy Wagner Group as a Transnational Criminal Organization
Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is taking additional actions to degrade the Russian Federation’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine by sanctioning six individuals and 12 entities. Today’s action, concurrent with additional sanctions actions by the Department of State, targets the infrastructure that supports battlefield operations in Ukraine, including producers of Russia’s weapons and those administering Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. Notably, today’s actions include the designation of persons that support Russian defense-related entities.
“As sanctions and export controls on Russia from our international coalition continue to bite, the Kremlin is desperately searching for arms and support – including through the brutal Wagner Group – to continue its unjust war against Ukraine,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. “Today’s expanded sanctions on Wagner, as well as new sanctions on their associates and other companies enabling the Russian military complex, will further impede Putin’s ability to arm and equip his war machine.”
PMC Wagner (Wagner Group) is a Russian private military company led by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Putin crony and the target of multiple U.S. sanctions. Wagner Group has been involved in Kremlin-backed combat operations around the world in support of Putin’s war on Ukraine. As Russia’s military has struggled on the battlefield, Putin has resorted to relying on the Wagner Group to continue his war of choice. The Wagner Group has also meddled and destabilized countries in Africa, committing widespread human rights abuses and extorting natural resources from their people. Today, the Wagner Group is being redesignated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, as amended by E.O. 13863, for being a foreign person that constitutes a significant transnational criminal organization. Wagner personnel have engaged in an ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity, including mass executions, rape, child abductions, and physical abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali.
In light of the transcontinental threat posed by the Wagner Group, Treasury is concurrently redesignating the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13667 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence, or abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law in relation to the CAR. These actions also advance the implementation of President Biden’s “Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV),” which directs federal agencies to leverage existing sanctions authorities to hold perpetrators of CRSV accountable and combat rampant impunity for these egregious acts.
On June 20, 2017, OFAC designated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 13660 for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and on November 15, 2022, the Department of State designated the Wagner Group pursuant to E.O. 14024 for operating in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation economy. The Wagner Group has also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.