The European Union on Monday set up a sanction regime that paves the way for blacklisting Russian mercenary company Wagner Group.
EU foreign ministers approved an amendment to the bloc’s sanctions frameworks that “will allow the EU to autonomously impose restrictive measures on individuals and entities responsible for threatening the peace, security or stability of Mali, or for obstructing the implementation of its political transition”, the Council of the EU said in a statement.
The decision followed a political agreement reached by EU foreign ministers last month on sanctioning the Wagner Group and its affiliates.
The amendment only creates a legal scheme to impose measures of asset freeze and travel ban for individuals and to forbid EU operators to make funds available for entities.
The EU foreign ministers are expected to give the green light for the concrete measures next year.
Last month, EU lawmakers called on EU states to blacklist the Wagner Group and condemned in “the strongest terms the heinous crimes committed by” the mercenaries.
According to a European Parliament resolution, the activities of the Wagner Group correspond to the expansion of Russia’s influence zone, therefore it is highly likely that the Russian state is in charge of the funding, training, management, and operational command of the paramilitary group.
The US Defense Department considers the private mercenary company a proxy force for the Russian state.
The Wagner Group has been deployed in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
According to the European Parliament, they have also intervened in the Central African Republic, Syria, Sudan, Mozambique, Libya, the Central African Republic, and Venezuela.
In 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed to 2,000 Wagner mercenaries fighting in Libya in support of Khalifa Haftar, a warlord who has fought Libya’s legitimate government and undermined efforts for peace and unity in the country.
Mali has been in political and security turmoil since 2012 making the West African country a safe haven for international terrorism.