BRUSSELS — The European Union has placed sanctions on the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, as well as eight people and three additional energy firms in Syria, for allegedly assisting in the financing of mercenaries in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria.
The travel bans and asset freezes, which are intended to prevent governments from cooperating with the Wagner Group, are unlikely to have a significant impact on Moscow, but they do signal a hardening of EU foreign policy against Russia, according to diplomats.
The EU named Dimitriy Utkin, a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer, as one of those targeted, claiming he was the creator of the Wagner Group and in charge of “coordinating and organizing activities for the deployment of Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared that sanctions will be imposed against individuals of the Wagner Group and against companies that directly work with it.
The Wagner Group is a unit of the Russian Ministry of Defense or the Undercover Main Intelligence Directorate. The Russian government uses it in conflicts that require denial. They are trained by Russian forces who send them to war zones, including Syria.
“The Wagner Group is responsible for serious human rights abuses in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Mozambique,” the EU said in its official journal, listing torture and extrajudicial executions.