From UAE to Sudan: US targets Middle East entities for Wagner ties

From UAE to Sudan: US targets Middle East entities for Wagner ties

The US has sanctioned entities operating in the UAE and Sudan for alleged connections to the notorious Russian mercenary group, which also has an extensive presence in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Treasury Department specifically mentioned Industrial Resources General Trading’s connection to a gold and diamond company known as Diamville SAU. Diamville, which was also sanctioned, allegedly shipped diamonds from the Central African Republic to the United Arab Emirates and Europe, and is controlled by Prigozhin.

“Industrial Resources wittingly participated in the transfer by hand of cash to Russia. Industrial Resources works with Diamville to generate revenue and move funds for Prigozhin. For example, in early 2022, Industrial Resources was the recipient of diamonds mined in the CAR and sold by Diamville,” said the department.

Al-Monitor’s efforts to contact Diamville and Industrial Resources General Trading were unsuccessful.

This is not the first time entities operating in the Middle East and North Africa have been sanctioned for alleged connections to Wagner. Others include: 

Kratol Aviation — The Treasury Department sanctioned the UAE-based company in January for allegedly providing aircraft that Wagner used to travel between Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Abbas Djuma and Tigran Khristoforovich Srabionov — The two were sanctioned last November for allegedly helping Wagner acquire drones from Iran for use in Ukraine. The designation was part of a larger series of measures targeting Iran’s supply of drones to Russia. 

M Invest — The department sanctioned the Russia-based company in 2020, alleging that the company is controlled by Pirogzhin and was awarded gold mining rights in Sudan in 2017. M Invest also allegedly helped former Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir suppress protesters, according to the department. M Invest’s subsidiary Meroe Gold was also sanctioned at the time, as were Andrei Mandel, who  leads M Invest, and Mikhail Potepkin, the Sudan-based regional director of Meroe Gold. 

Background: Wagner has a significant presence in the Middle East and North Africa. Wagner sent troops to Syria in 2015 when Russia began its ongoing intervention on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Wagner also entered Libya in 2018 to support eastern-based forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter. 

There have been multiple reports that Wagner is involved in gold mining in Sudan. CNN also reported in April that Wagner was supporting the rebel Rapid Support Forces in their ongoing conflict with the Sudanese armed forces. Wagner denied operating in Sudan the same month. 

Wagner has also operated in Ukraine and several other African states.

Why it matters: UAE-based entities that are not Wagner associates have also been sanctioned in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In April, the US sanctioned some UAE-based firms for allegedly shipping products to Russia in violation of sanctions. 

In January, the US Treasury Department sent its undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, to the UAE, Oman and Turkey in an effort to boost compliance with US sanctions on Russia.

Many wealthy Russians and Ukrainians have invested and bought property the UAE since the war began last year.

The UAE has made some efforts to comply with the sanctions. In March, the UAE Central Bank canceled the license of Russia’s MTS Bank in Abu Dhabi, citing “sanctions risk.” Numerous Iranian entities and individuals have also been sanctioned for helping Russia in the Ukraine war. 

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photo, OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

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