The European Union has levied embargoes on Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, as well as on eight persons and three other energy corporations in Syria charged of helping finance the mercenaries in Ukraine, Libya and Syria.
Allegations of human rights violations and clandestine operations on behalf of the Kremlin have been made against the Wagner Group, a group of former military personnel, by the European Union (EU).
Human rights abuses including torture and extrajudicial executions have been attributed to the Wagner Group in the European Union’s official journal, including Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mozambique.
Despite Russia’s denials of any wrongdoing, Military contractors hired by the government have the freedom to work and pursue their interests wherever they want, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin. That the Wagner Group was not paid by the Russian government has been stated by Putin.
Moscow is unlikely to notice much of a difference from the travel bans and asset freezes, but diplomats said they marked a more aggressive stance by the EU toward Russia.
Dimitriy Utkin, a former GRU officer from Russia, was one of those on the EU’s hit list because he was allegedly the founder of Wagner Group mercenaries and in charge of “coordination and planning operations for Wagner Group mercenaries deployment in Ukraine.”
A group of alleged Wagner mercenaries, including Denis Kharitonov and Sergey Shcherbakov, was briefly detained in Belarus and returned to Russia last year, according to Belarus state news agency Belta.
“Kharitonov personally shot down a Ukrainian helicopter” and “received the Russian Federation’s Order of Merit for the Fatherland,” the EU claimed Kharitonov fought for Russia in eastern Ukraine.
The EU also imposed sanctions on three Russian entities linked to the Wagner Group, alleging they were involved in oil and gas production in Syria.
In October 2020, the EU imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on former Russian caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin, dubbed “Putin’s cook” for his close ties to the Kremlin and accused of having close ties to the Wagner Group. The sanctions that followed came as a result of that action.
The EU revealed in its official journal on Monday that “Yevgeny Prigozhin funds the Wagner Group.”
In a statement released on Friday, Prigozhin denied any such ties existed.
Authorities in the West and United Nations have accused the Wagner Group of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and their participation in the Libyan conflict. Both France and Germany have voiced their dissatisfaction with the country’s troops stationed in Mali.
He insisted that the Russian government was not associated and stated that the company has a “legitimate” right to be in Mali because it was invited by the transitional government.