The United States announced new sanctions targeting Russia’s Wagner Group on Tuesday, adding to a small list of entities operating in the Middle East and North Africa that have been sanctioned by the US for alleged ties to the group. 

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control unveiled a series of sanctions targeting entities in Russia, the Central African Republic and the UAE for allegedly being “connected to the violent Russian military group” as well as its owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin. The sanctions follow an aborted mutiny Wagner waged against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend.

The Dubai-based Industrial Resources General Trading, an industrial goods distributor, was among those sanctioned. The firm allegedly “provided financial support to Prigozhin through its business dealings,” according to the release. 

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. 

The US has also sanctioned UAE firms for allegedly violating sanctions on Iran recently.

Know more: The fallout from Wagner’s mutiny in Russia has led to speculation on the group’s future operations in the Middle East. On Tuesday, the Saudi news outlet AlHadath reported that Russian military police arrested Wagner members in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Wagner forces in Syria were ordered to a base controlled by Russia's Defense Ministry in the port city of Latakia on Tuesday, and complied. The move is part of Russia's efforts to bring the group under control in the countries where it operates, according to the outlet. 

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