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Monday, September 25, 2023

From UAE to Sudan: U.S. targets Middle Eastern entities with Wagner ties


U.S. announces new sanctions targets Russia Wagner Group On Tuesday, that added to a small group of entities operating in the Middle East and North Africa that have been sanctioned by the United States for their alleged ties to the group.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has unveiled a series of sanctions against entities in Russia, the Central African Republic, and the United Arab Emirates for alleged “linkages to violent Russian military organizations” and their owner Yevgeny Prigozhin ( Yevgeny Prigozhin). The sanctions came after Wagner’s failed weekend mutiny against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Industrial Resources General Trading, a Dubai-based distributor of industrial products, was also sanctioned. The company allegedly “provided financial support to Prigorzhin through business dealings,” the press release said.

The Treasury specifically cited Industrial Resources General Trading’s links to a gold and diamond company called Diamville SAU. Diamville, also sanctioned, allegedly shipped diamonds from the Central African Republic to the United Arab Emirates and Europe and was controlled by Prigozhin.

“Industrial Resources was deliberately involved in cash transfers to Russia. Industrial Resources worked with Diamville to generate revenue for Prigozhin and transfer funds. For example, in early 2022, Industrial Resources received diamonds mined in the Central African Republic and sold by Diamville ,” the department said.

Al-Monitor tried unsuccessfully to contact Diamville and Industrial Resources General Trading.

This is not the first time entities operating in the Middle East and North Africa have been sanctioned for alleged ties to Wagner. Others include:

Krato Aviation — The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the UAE-based company in January for allegedly supplying the planes Wagner used to travel to and from Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Abbas Juma and Tigran Khristoforovich Slabionov — The pair were sanctioned in November for allegedly helping Wagner obtain drones from Iran for use in Ukraine. The designation is part of a larger set of measures against Iran’s supply of drones to Russia.

m investment — The ministry sanctioned the Russia-based company in 2020, claiming it was controlled by Pirogzhin, which was granted gold mining rights in Sudan in 2017. M Invest is also suspected of helping former Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir crack down on protesters, according to the ministry. Meroe Gold, a subsidiary of M Invest, was also sanctioned at the time, as were Andrei Mandel, who led M Invest, and Mikhail Potepkin, Meroe Gold’s regional director in Sudan.

background: Wagner has significant influence in the Middle East and North Africa. Wagner sent troops to Syria in 2015 as Russia began its ongoing intervention on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Wagner also entered Libya in 2018 to support eastern forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar.

There have been multiple reports that Wagner was involved in gold mining in Sudan. CNN also reported in April that Wagner was supporting the ongoing clashes between the rebel Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces. Wagner denied doing business in Sudan that same month.

Wagner also operates in Ukraine and several other African countries.

Why it’s important: Emirati entities that are not Wagner employees have also been sanctioned over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. April, US Sanctions Some UAE Companies Alleged shipment of products to Russia in violation of sanctions.

In January, the U.S. Treasury Department sent Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Turkey to promote U.S. compliance with Russia sanctions.

Many wealthy Russians and Ukrainians have invested and bought property in the UAE since the war started last year.

The UAE has made some efforts to comply with the sanctions. In March this year, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates canceled the license of Russia’s MTS Bank in Abu Dhabi on the grounds of “sanction risk”. Many Iranian entities and individuals have also been sanctioned for aiding Russia in the Ukraine war.

U.S. also imposes sanctions on Emirati firm allegedly violating rules Sanctions on Iran recent.

learn more: The fallout from Wagner’s defection in Russia has fueled speculation about the group’s future operations in the Middle East. On Tuesday, Saudi news outlet AlHadath reported that Russian military police had arrested members of Wagner in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Wagner’s troops in Syria were ordered to go to a base in the port city of Latakia controlled by the Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday and to comply. According to the outlet, the move is part of Russia’s efforts to keep the group under control in the countries where it operates.


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