Prigozhin, Kremlin dismiss U.S. sanctions on Russia’s Wagner group

(Reuters) – Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin reacted sarcastically on Friday to new U.S. sanctions towards his Wagner personal navy group, and the Kremlin stated Washington had been smearing Wagner with out motive for years.

The USA on Thursday designated Wagner, which is combating on the Russian aspect in a few of the most intense battles of the Ukraine battle, as a transnational prison organisation answerable for widespread human rights abuses.

In a press release by way of his press service, Prigozhin stated: “We carried out an inside examine with reference to the Wagner group’s crimes, however discovered nothing damaging. If anyone has any details about Wagner’s crimes, please ship it to our press service or publish it within the media, so we might help our American colleagues formulate their place.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated it was not the primary time Washington had “demonised” the group.

“This has been happening for a few years. As a rule, such statements from Washington are unfounded … there is no such thing as a proof, no affirmation, nothing is introduced to the general public,” he stated.

After years spent working within the shadows and denying his hyperlinks to Wagner, Prigozhin acknowledged final September he had based the organisation, which has additionally dispatched troopers to combat in Syria and in conflicts throughout Africa.

In current months he has emerged as one of many key Russian figures within the battle in Ukraine, clashing publicly with the defence ministry and armed forces generals over Russia’s faltering marketing campaign technique.

A former petty prison turned confidant of President Vladimir Putin, Prigozhin has been recruiting convicts from Russian prisons to combat in Ukraine, promising them amnesty in change for a six-month stint on the frontline. Many have died within the battle.

British defence chiefs stated final week that as much as 50,000 Russians may very well be combating for Wagner in Ukraine alongside Russia’s official armed forces.

Wagner personnel have been accused of a number of human rights abuses each in Africa and Ukraine.

In Mali and the Central African Republic, rights teams and witnesses say Wagner fighters had been answerable for atrocities together with rape, mass executions, torture, baby abduction and bodily abuse. An ex-Wagner commander beforehand combating in Ukraine who fled to Norway stated earlier this month he noticed Wagner troopers being shot within the again as they tried to flee.

(Reporting by Reuters; Enhancing by Gareth Jones, Mark Trevelyan and Frank Jack Daniel)

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