DC, Washington The Mali defense minister and two military officers have been sanctioned by the US after it was claimed that they had assisted in the emergence of the Russian mercenary company Wagner in the country of West Africa.
Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel Adama Bagayoko, Colonel Alou Boi Diarra, and Malian Defence Minister Colonel Sadio Camara were the targets of the sanctions, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement on Monday.
Blinken claimed the group was attempting to “facilitate and expand Wagner’s presence in Mali since December 2021,” noting that since the Russian mercenaries arrived in the nation, there have been a 278 percent increase in civilian casualties.
According to Blinken, “many of those deaths were the result of operations carried out by the Malian Armed Forces in conjunction with members of the Wagner Group.”
Official from the US Treasury Department Brian Nelson added that the Malian authorities had “played a key role in facilitating the Wagner Group’s entrenchment in Mali over the past two years” in a second statement.
The exploitation of their nation’s sovereign resources for the benefit of the Wagner Group’s operations in Ukraine was made possible by these authorities, Nelson claimed, who also left their people open to the destabilizing and human rights violations of the group.
The Wagner Group and those who support it have been the subject of sanctions for years by the US and its allies. For instance, the United Kingdom sanctioned 13 people last week who had connections to the Wagner Group in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Sudan.
Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in which Wagner mercenaries played a significant part, pressure grew. Washington classified Wagner as a “transnational criminal organization” in January.
Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov, who the Treasury Department designated as Wagner’s “principal administrator” in Mali, was also sanctioned by the US in May.
US officials have long charged Yevgeny Prigozhin’s company with promoting Russian interests through security agreements and defamation campaigns in Africa.
We're imposing sanctions on three Malian officials who have coordinated with the Wagner Group to facilitate and expand Wagner’s presence in Mali. Civilian fatalities have surged more than threefold since Wagner forces deployed to Mali in December 2021.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 24, 2023
What impact a recent Russian rebellion led by Prigozhin will have on Wagner’s operations in Africa is yet unknown.
Following a military-led coup in May 2021 that saw military officer Assimi Goita grab power, Malian politicians began to increasingly turn to Wagner.
The turn coincided with an uptick in calls for French troops to withdraw from Mali, where they had first arrived in 2013 in response to a separatist rebellion. The troops of France left in full force in August of last year.
The Reuters news agency sent a response request regarding the US sanctions imposed on Monday, but the transitional administration of Mali did not answer right away.