EU sanctions Russian paramilitary group Wagner, its commanders in Libya, Syria

Bloc blacklists Russian paramilitary group, 8 commanders, 3 related energy firms for human rights abuses, destabilizing activities.

BRUSSELS (AA) – The European Union on Monday passed sanctions against Russian paramilitary company the Wagner Group for its actions in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and the Central African Republic.

EU foreign ministers approved restrictive measures against the Russian private military firm, eight of its high-ranking members, and three related companies.

“The Wagner Group has recruited, trained, and sent private military operatives to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, loot natural resources, and intimidate civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law,” the EU Council said in a statement.

The eight blacklisted individuals are “involved in serious human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or in destabilizing activities,” the document said.

Under the decision, one Wagner Group commander was sanctioned for his involvement in the Libyan conflict, and another for fighting in the Central African Republic.

Another three high-ranking soldiers were blacklisted for planning and carrying out military operations in Ukraine, undermining the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

One of them, Dimitry Valerievich Utkin, was particularly condemned along with Stanislav Evgenievtich Dychko for serious human rights abuses committed in Syria, including torturing deserters to death.

In addition, two commanders were targeted for crimes committed while fighting alongside the Syrian army and supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The measures also involve three Russian companies that are active in the mining, oil, and gas industries in Syria.

Under the new measures, EU operators are forbidden from making funds available for the commanders, the Wagner Group, and the three energy firms, while the individuals are banned from entering the bloc’s territory.

The restrictive measures were based on four different sanctions regimes: the EU Human Rights Sanctions Regime, and sanctions regimes related to the situation in Libya and Syria, as well as the bloc’s blacklist for undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Earlier on Monday, EU foreign ministers approved an amendment to impose restrictive measures for threatening the peace, security, or stability of Mali that might be a legal basis for further sanctions against the Wagner Group.

According to a resolution passed by the European Parliament, Wagner’s activities correspond to the expansion of Russia’s influence zone, making it highly likely that Moscow is in charge of the funding, training, management, and operational command of the paramilitary group.

The US Defense Department considers the private mercenary company a proxy force for the Russian state.

The Wagner Group has been deployed in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine since 2014.

According to the European Parliament, they have also intervened in the Central African Republic, Syria, Sudan, Mozambique, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Venezuela.

In 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed to 2,000 Wagner mercenaries fighting in Libya in support of Khalifa Haftar, a warlord who has fought Libya’s legitimate government and undermined efforts for peace and unity in the country.

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