Jan 21 (Reuters) – The head of Russian private military contractor Wagner published a short letter to the White House on Saturday asking what crime his company was accused of, after Washington announced new sanctions against the group.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Wagner, who is supporting Russian forces in their invasion of Ukraine and takes credit for the battlefield advance, will be designated as a major transnational criminal organization.
A letter in English addressed to Kirby and posted on the Telegram channel of Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s press office read: “Dear Mr. Kirby, could you please clarify what crime was committed by PMC Wagner?”
Kirby called Wagner “a criminal organization engaged in widespread atrocities and human rights abuses”.
Last month, the White House said Wagner had received a weapons shipment from North Korea to bolster Russian troops in Ukraine.
North Korea’s foreign ministry called the report baseless and Prigozhin denied at the time that he had taken such a delivery, calling the report “gossip and speculation”.
Washington had already imposed restrictions on trade with Wagner in 2017 and again in December in an effort to restrict access to weapons.
The European Union imposed its own sanctions in December 2021 on Wagner, who was active in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique and Mali, as well as Ukraine.
Prigozhin has described Wagner as a completely independent force with its own aircraft, tanks, missiles and artillery.
He is wanted in the United States for interfering in US elections, something he said in November he had done and would continue to do.
Written by Kevin Liffey; Edited by Helen Popper
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