The United States (US) State Department on Monday said the Russia-based Wagner Group is trying to ship military equipment and weapons for use in Ukraine through Mali to aid Russia in its war, reported Alarabiya News.
During a regular news briefing, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters that Wagner may use false paperwork for such transactions.
“There are indications that Wagner has been attempting to purchase military systems from foreign suppliers and route these weapons through Mali as a third party,” Miller said.
The US State Department official said there isn’t any indication that the weapon acquisitions have been finalized or executed, but they are monitoring the situation closely.
He said Washington has imposed sanctions on several people and entities found to be supporting Wagner’s military operations. He added that the US would have more information in this regard to share soon.
Mercenaries of the Wagner Group have supported and fought alongside Russian troops in Ukraine, including in some of the most intense battles such as the ongoing fight for control of Bakhmut.
Western countries have raised concerns over the activities of the Wagner group in Mali since late 2021. Mali, whose military leaders seized power in a 2021 coup, and Russia have previously maintained that Russian forces operating in the West African country are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment bought from Russia.
In January 2023, the US Treasury Department introduced new sanctions against the Russian mercenary group Wagner and officially designated it as a transnational criminal organization.
Miller’s statement regarding the Wagner Group comes less than two weeks after the US ambassador to South Africa accused the country of having supplied arms and ammunition to Russia via a cargo ship.
Reuben Brigety claimed that a Russian ship was found loaded with weapons and ammunition last December at a naval base near the city of Cape Town.