US delays Wagner sanctions after insurrection – WSJ

The US reportedly did not want to be seen as taking sides in Vladimir Putin’s clash with Evgeny Prigozhin

US delays Wagner sanctions after insurrection – WSJ

US delays Wagner sanctions after insurrection – WSJ

Washington reportedly did not want to be seen as siding with Vladimir Putin

The US has postponed a fresh round of economic sanctions targeting the Wagner private military company after its leader, Evgeny Prigozhin, led an armed convoy towards Moscow in defiance of the Kremlin, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing sources. 

According to the newspaper, the US State Department was expected to announce sanctions on Wagner-linked gold businesses in Africa on Tuesday, including a mining operation in the Central African Republic.

However, the plan was shelved after Prigozhin accused the Russian military of shelling a Wagner training camp on Friday, and led a convoy of his troops toward Moscow the next day, vowing to confront senior Russian military leaders. The rebellion was defused on Saturday evening following talks between Prigozhin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“Washington does not want to appear to be taking sides in this,” an anonymous source told the newspaper. With Putin accusing Prigozhin of treason and vowing “decisive actions” against the mutineers, the US apparently felt that sanctioning Wagner would aid the Russian leader.

The Wagner Group has been under US sanctions since 2017, and was designated an "entity of particular concern” by the State Department in early December for allegedly threatening religious freedom in Africa. The organization was labeled a restricted “military end user” by the US later that month, and designated a “significant transnational criminal organization” in January.

Last month, the US sanctioned the head of Wagner’s operations in Mali.

Throughout Prigozhin’s standoff with Putin, the US and its allies refused to comment on the situation or issue any public pronouncements or predictions. However, the White House confirmed in a statement on Saturday that US President Joe Biden had “discussed the situation in Russia” with the leaders of France, Germany, and the UK.