valkyrie swoop

UK targets Wagner’s gold in Africa

By Jeune Afrique

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Posted on July 25, 2023 12:57

Russian mercenaries Wagner Group Mali
Russian mercenaries in northern Mali. (AP/SIPA)

The British government is trying to halt Wagner Group’s march on Africa by sanctioning its leaders in Mali, Central African Republic and Sudan.

On 20 July, the UK announced new sanctions on ’13 individuals and businesses linked to the actions of the Russian Wagner Group, including executions and torture in Mali and the Central African Republic and threats to peace and security in Sudan’.

The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the UK, a ban on British citizens or banks doing business with the companies and individuals named, and a ban on entering the UK.

Among those targeted were the closest associates of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in Africa: Ivan Maslov, the group’s head in Mali, and his counterpart in the Central African Republic (CAR), Vitalii Perfilev, as well as other key individuals in the group’s CAR operations, such as operations director Konstantin Pikalov, unofficial spokesman Alexander Ivanov, military instructor Aleksandr Maloletko, and Dimitri Sytyi, head of civilian activities.

Gold and diamond mines

The sanctions have also targeted Wagner’s revenue sources in Africa, such as gold and diamonds, which the group mines through a number of companies.

In the CAR, London has included Lobaye Invest, a subsidiary of the Russian company M Finans, which holds several mining licences in the country. Lobaye Invest is the parent company of another CAR-based entity subject to sanctions, the security company Sewa Security Services.

In Sudan, the sanctions have specifically targeted the paramilitary group’s mining activities.

Through these sanctions, the British government has accused Wagner of supporting the ongoing conflict between General Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and those led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, by supplying weapons and military equipment.

The mining companies Al Solag Mining Company and Meroe Gold, as well as their parent company, M-Invest, are also affected by the British sanctions on Wagner, as are the directors of the latter two companies, Mikhail Potepkin and Andrei Mandel.

Redeployment in Africa

These measures have come after Prigozhin announced on 19 July, in a video posted on Wagner’s Telegram channel, that after his aborted rebellion attempt against the Kremlin on 24 June he planned to redeploy his followers fighting in Ukraine to Africa.

On 27 June, the USreiterated the risk posed to stability and peace in Africa by the mining operations carried out by entities and personalities linked to the paramilitary group, particularly in Sudan, the CAR and Mali.

Washington, which imposed sanctions on Lobaye Invest and M-Invest in 2020, asked American operators to step up their vigilance with regard to gold from the continent.

Back in May, British daily The Times revealed that the British government was considering stepping up its measures against Wagner by classifying the group as a terrorist organisation.

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