The UK government has imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and businesses associated with Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group, operating in Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, and Sudan.
The government targeted key Wagner personnel, attributing them to various acts of violence, such as executions and torture in Mali and CAR, and jeopardizing peace and security in Sudan.
One of the significant figures to face the new sanctions is Konstantin Pikalyov, identified as an essential adviser to Prigozhin and the operational head of Wagner in CAR. As a result, Pikalyov will face asset freezes in the UK and a travel ban. The UK’s minister for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, stated, “Wherever Wagner operates, it has a catastrophic effect on communities, worsens existing conflicts and damages the reputations of countries that host them.”
Additional individuals under the UK sanctions include Vitaly Perfilov in CAR and Alexander Maloletko, Ivan Maslov, the head of the Wagner Group in Mali, and Mikhail Potepkin in Sudan, who is reportedly linked with the Wagner Group and a director of the mining company Meroe Gold. Meroe Gold and two other businesses have been sanctioned for acting as fronts for the Wagner Group and posing threats to peace and security in Sudan.
It remains unclear whether these individuals have direct ties to the Kremlin. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed last June that the state fully funds Wagner, with about 86 billion roubles paid to the group between May 2022 and May 2023, Moscow and Bamako insist that Russian forces in Mali are not Wagner mercenaries. Instead, they claim to be trainers assisting local troops with Russian equipment.
Despite this, these mercenaries have been implicated in human rights abuses, notably an incident in Moura, central Mali, in March 2022, where hundreds of civilians were reportedly killed by local troops and suspected Russian fighters.