US issues sanctions on Russian, Central African Republic entities over Wagner ties

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By Daphne Psaledakis and Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two entities it accused of advancing Russia's "malign activities" in the Central African Republic (CAR) and enabling the Wagner mercenary group, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

The entities, a CAR-based timber company and a Russia-based company, sought to benefit financially "from illicit natural resource extraction and provided material and financial support to the Wagner Group and other organizations" tied to Wagner's former owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who died in a 2023 plane explosion in Russia, the Treasury said.

The action targets CAR-based Bois Rouge SARLU for its ties to Wagner and St. Petersburg-based Broker Expert for its support of Bois Rouge, it said in a statement.

"Russia has sought to leverage these Wagner-affiliated companies in its efforts both to secure additional revenue from abroad and to advance its interests in Africa, often at the expense of the host countries, their institutions, and their citizens,” Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.

“The United States remains focused on disrupting the networks that enable Russia’s illicit and destabilizing activities in Africa."

The Central African Republic, a former French colony, has become one of Russia's closest African allies in recent years, playing host to one of the Wagner Group mercenary army's largest foreign operations.

Wagner has also battled in Libya, Syria, Mali and other countries, and has fought some of the bloodiest clashes of the war in Ukraine. It was founded in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and started supporting pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

The United States has previously imposed sanctions on Wagner and has repeatedly warned of what it says are Wagner's destabilizing activities and human rights abuses as Washington has ramped up sanctions against the private army following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Ismail Shakil and Susan Heavey; Editing by Eric Beech)