By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The United Kingdom on Thursday moved to sanction 13 individuals and businesses in Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali with alleged links to the actions of Russia’s infamous mercenary Wagner Group.
Wagner Group has operated in these countries for years and has been a powerful tool for Russia to pursue its policy interests in Africa. The group has profited from mining operations on the continent and providing armed support and protection to militias and poor African governments. That support has seen hundreds of civilians killed, and Wagner’s fighters have been accused of committing human rights violations across Africa.
In March 2022, Britain sanctioned the Wagner Group; its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin; and several of his key commanders who have participated in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement on Thursday announcing the new sanctions, the British Foreign Office said that among these actions were executions and torture in Mali and CAR, as well as “threats to peace and security” in Sudan.
Five businesses and individuals were sanctioned in Sudan, accused by the British government of using disinformation campaigns and providing military equipment to different groups. The Sudan-based companies and individuals that were sanctioned include the following:
• M-Invest, a business serving as a front for the Wagner Group. The UK foreign office said M-Invest has previously advised the Sudanese government on disinformation campaigns to discredit pro-civilian transition protesters.
• Andrei Sergeevich Mandel, director general of M-Invest.
• Meroe Gold, a mining subsidiary of M-Invest. Meroe Gold imported equipment to Sudan including weapons, helicopters and military trucks, the British foreign office said.
• Mikhail Potepkin, regional director of M-Invest and director of Meroe Gold. The Foreign Ministry said he worked to ensure planes hired by Meroe Gold could continue to operate domestically and internationally while being undetected by commercial aviation radars.
• Al-Solag Mining for its close association with Meroe Gold and alleged attempts to avoid existing Western sanctions and Sudanese regulations.
Other individuals sanctioned included Wagner’s head of operations in CAR, Konstantin Pikalov, described by the British government as Prigozhin’s “right-hand man.”
The heads of the Wagner Group in CAR and Mali, Vitalii Perfilev and Ivan Maslov, were both hit by sanctions.
The measures will limit the individuals’ and companies’ financial freedom by preventing them from interacting or doing business with any UK nationals or firms. Their assets will also be frozen in the UK, and they will be banned from traveling there.
UK Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell said, “The Wagner Group is committing atrocities in Ukraine, as well as acting with impunity in countries like Mali, Central African Republic and Sudan. Wherever Wagner operates, it has a catastrophic effect on communities, worsens existing conflicts and damages the reputations of countries that host them.”
He added, “These sanctions expose despicable individuals who have commissioned violations of international humanitarian law, holding them to account for the severe harm they are inflicting on innocent civilians for financial gain.”
The Wagner Group has played a significant role in Russia’s war against Ukraine, but after Prigozhin led a failed mutiny and ordered his men to march on Moscow last month, the organization has stepped back from the limelight. Many Wagner fighters relocated to Belarus under a deal negotiated by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the uprising.