Light Wave


‘Wagner leaves trail of death and destruction’ Advocates Urge Countries to Cut Ties with Mercenary Group

By Jake Beardslee · June 28, 2023

In brief…

  • U.S. Treasury imposes sanctions on companies allegedly funding Wagner Group's gold mining operations in Central African Republic
  • Wagner Group, notorious for human rights abuses, expands presence in Africa through lucrative gold mining ventures
  • U.S. outlaws transactions with four companies involved in Wagner's illicit gold trade
  • Sanctions aim to pressure African governments to cut ties with Wagner Group, highlighting geopolitical tensions
A vehicle of Russian and Syrian mercenaries in Bria, in Haute-Kotto.  Corbeau News Centrafrique/CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a strategic bid to destabilize the financial underpinnings of the infamous Wagner Group, the U.S. Treasury Department has recently levied sanctions against several companies purportedly aiding the group’s profitable gold mining ventures in the Central African Republic. This action is a component of a larger international endeavor to rein in the activities of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor notorious for its alleged role in violence and human rights abuses across numerous conflict-stricken regions.

The Wagner Group has earned its notoriety through its involvement in multiple global armed conflicts. From Ukraine to Syria and Libya, the group’s operations have been consistently marred by allegations of brutalities and human rights infringements. Recently, it has also established a substantial foothold in the Central African Republic, where gold mining has emerged as a primary funding source for its activities.

In an interview with France 24, Peter O’Brien, a specialist on the Wagner Group, underscored the destructive aftermath of their operations. O’Brien stated, “Everywhere the Wagner goes, they leave death and destruction in their wake. They hurt local populations…and extract money from the communities where they operate.”

Acknowledging the pivotal role that gold mining plays in bankrolling Wagner’s operations, the U.S. Treasury has now outlawed transactions with four companies suspected of bolstering the group’s illicit trade in the precious metal. These companies encompass a mine operator and a gold and diamond buyer within the Central African Republic, a distributor based in Dubai, and a Russian company implicated in the scheme.

The actions taken by the U.S. government are intended to pressure African governments and other nations into severing any ties with the Wagner Group. O’Brien echoed this sentiment, stating, “We would continue to urge governments in Africa and elsewhere to cease any cooperation with Wagner.”

However, Moscow has unequivocally stated that Wagner will not be retreating from Africa, as the group has played a key role in expanding Russia’s diplomatic influence in the region. The imposition of sanctions by the United States further highlights the geopolitical tensions surrounding Wagner’s operations.

While international attempts to curb the Wagner Group’s activities persist, the recent U.S. sanctions represent a significant stride towards dismantling the group’s financial infrastructure. The implications of these actions on the dynamics of conflicts in various regions, as well as the response of African governments, remain to be seen.