Speaking at a White House news briefing, Kirby said the designation would open up “additional avenues” for the United States to go after Wagner’s business activities around the world, and give other nations and institutions the firepower to follow suit.
“These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity,” Kirby said. He noted the Russian mercenary group had carried out “atrocities and human rights abuses in Ukraine, and of course elsewhere around the world.”
The action comes a month after the Commerce Department imposed new restrictions on Wagner, designating the group a Russian “military end user” to hinder the mercenaries’ ability to acquire items that use U.S. technology.
At Friday’s briefing, Kirby also displayed photos depicting what he said were five Russian rail cars traveling from Russia into North Korea on Nov. 18 and returning along the same route the following day. He said those rail cars carried an initial delivery of North Korean infantry rockets and missiles for use by Wagner fighters in Ukraine.
Kirby said the arms transfers stood in “direct violation” of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Washington on Friday shared information regarding the prohibited activity with the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee panel of experts, Kirby said.
The Biden administration first alleged last month that North Korea was making weapons deliveries to Wagner. Pyongyang’s denials are false, Kirby said, pointing to the newly released imagery as proof of the U.S. allegation.
“We obviously condemn North Korea’s actions, and we urge North Korea to cease these deliveries to Wagner immediately,” Kirby said.
Since its first appearance in Ukraine in 2014, Wagner has risen to international renown as a ruthless shadow instrument of Russian power that has been accused of human rights abuses in Syria, Mali, Central African Republic and Ukraine.
Its founder, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, spent nine years in prison for robbery and other crimes, before operating a hot dog stand, casinos and a floating restaurant in post-Soviet St. Petersburg, where he came to know Putin.
Prigozhin’s company, Concord Catering, won contracts with Russian state and municipal entities. Meanwhile, the former convict and caterer meddled in foreign affairs, funding the…
Read More: U.S. to brand Russia’s Wagner Group a ‘transnational criminal’ entity