International Community Needs to Demonstrate Opposition to Russian Wagner Group

On Thursday, May 30, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions against two firms in the Central African Republic that they accused of working with the Wagner group. According to the BBC, the Wagner group is a Russian military group with ties to the Kremlin. 


According to the BBC, the former leader of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prighozin, was a convicted criminal who recruited Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine. He also had groups that operated in several African countries to combat armed Islamist groups. However, Prighozin, a former close friend of Putin, died in a plane crash last August. 


According to an article by Al Jazeera, President Biden labeled the Wagner group a “transnational criminal organization,” in 2023, leading to sanctions against its businesses in Africa. According to the BBC, the group was accused of torturing and executing civilians in Mali and in the Central African Republic. The Wagner group has also been accused of killing and torturing civilians in Ukraine and Bucha, leading other countries like the United Kingdom to label the group as a terrorist organization.


According to Al Jazeera, the US Treasury Department accused two firms in Central Africa, Mining Industries and Logistique Economique Etrangere, of collaborating with the Wagner group. Specifically, the department said that the two firms helped facilitate Wagner security operations and illegal mining endeavors. The department claimed that Mining Industries had been leasing aircraft from an already sanctioned firm that Wagner was using to “transport personnel and equipment across Africa.” Logistique Economique Etrangere received large volumes of shipments of materials from another already sanctioned firm that were “also likely intended for Wagner-linked illicit mining activities.”


In order to reduce violence in Central Africa, the international community needs to place heavy sanctions on the Wagner group to limit their control and their access to weapons. The European Union has not yet formally recognized the Wagner group as a terrorist group. Recognition of the group’s continual violence against civilians would be the first step toward reaching peace. Additionally, the EU and UN peacekeeping groups have slowly been withdrawing from the conflict in the Central African Republic, leading to a stronger Russian presence. In fact, according to an article by the BBC, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, removed French troops from the area due to the Malian government inviting mercenaries from the Wagner group and delaying democratic elections. Though the UN peacekeeping measures have largely been ineffective, the presence of the Wagner group has directly increased civilian deaths and executions. Instead of withdrawing and staying out of Mali, the UN and the EU should continue negotiations with the Malian government and work to reach an agreement to keep the Wagner group out of Central Africa.