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Wagner chief writes to White House about new sanctions

Jan 21 (Reuters) – The head of Russian private military contractor Wagner issued a short letter to the White House on Saturday asking what crime his company was accused of, after Washington announced new sanctions against the group.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Wagner, who supported Russian forces in their invasion of Ukraine and claimed credit for advances on the battlefield, would be named as a major transnational criminal organization.

A letter in English addressed to Kirby and published on the Telegram channel of Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin’s press service read: “Dear Mr. Kirby, could you please clarify what crime has been committed by PMC Wagner ?”

Kirby called Wagner “a criminal organization that commits widespread atrocities and human rights abuses”.

Last month, the White House said Wagner had taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.

An interior view shows the PMC Wagner Center, which is a project implemented by businessman and founder of the private Wagner military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office building in Saint Petersburg, in Russia, November 4, 2022. REUTERS/Igor Russak /File Photo

The North Korean Foreign Ministry called the report unsubstantiated and Prigozhin at the time denied taking such delivery, calling the report “gossip and speculation”.

Washington had previously imposed trade restrictions with Wagner in 2017 and again in December in an attempt to restrict his access to weapons.

The European Union imposed its own sanctions in December 2021 on Wagner, which has been active in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique and Mali, as well as Ukraine.

Prigozhin described Wagner as a fully independent force with its own aircraft, tanks, rockets and artillery.

He is wanted in the United States for interfering in the US election, which he said in November he had done and would continue to do.

Written by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Helen Popper

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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