Advertisement

U.S. to designate Wagner mercenary group as 'transnational criminal organization'

John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House, said Friday the Treasury Department will designate the Wagner mercenary group as a "transnational criminal organization" next week. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
1 of 5 | John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House, said Friday the Treasury Department will designate the Wagner mercenary group as a "transnational criminal organization" next week. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The United States will impose a new series of sanctions against the Russian Wagner mercenary group, White House National Security Council coordinator John Kirby announced Friday.

Additionally, Kirby announced that the Treasury Department will designate the mercenary army as a "transnational criminal organization" next week.

Advertisement

"These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity," said Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House.

In addition to announcing new sanctions and the threat designation of the group, U.S. officials also released satellite images they say show trains moving between Russia and North Korea. According to the United States, the trains were ferrying rockets to Wagner fighters in Ukraine.

"The arms transfers from [North Korea] are in dire violation of United Nations Security Council resolution," Kirby told reporters.

The Wagner mercenary group is seen as the spearhead of Russia's recent battlefield gains in Soledar by many military analysts. The group's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been openly feuding with the Russian Ministry of Defense, accusing them of taking credit for advances in Soledar.

Advertisement

Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly turning to Wagner, Kirby said, adding, "Wagner is becoming a rival power center to the Russian military and other Russian ministries."

Kirby said Wagner currently has about 50,000 personnel deployed to Ukraine, including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts.

In 2011, then President Barack Obama signed an executive order targeting the finances of individuals linked to "transnational criminal organizations."

"These organizations facilitate and aggravate violent civil conflicts and increasingly facilitate the activities of other dangerous persons," reads the text of Executive Order 13581.

"I therefore determine that significant transnational criminal organizations constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat," the text of Executive Order 13581 continues.

Wagner has a long history of documented atrocities on multiple continents.

In 2017 Wagner mercenaries murdered and beheaded a Syrian civilian who had escaped military service.

In March 2022, Wagner mercenaries, and a Malian government-linked militia, murdered approximately 300 civilians in the village of Moura.

In 2022, a Wagner prisoner of war who was traded back to Russia in a prisoner exchange, Yevgeny Nuzhin, was subsequently executed by Wagner mercenaries with a mallet.

Advertisement

Latest Headlines