The Wagner mercenary group uses gold mining in Africa to fund Russia’s war on Ukraine despite global sanctions, according to a report from the Consumer Choice Center and Democracy 21.
The big picture: Wagner has funneled approximately $2.5 billion to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine last year, despite global sanctions aimed at restricting the Russian economy.
* The report focuses on three key countries – Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic – where Russia’s ‘blood gold’ trade has particularly flourished.
How it works: Wagner’s involvement in Africa, particularly gold mining, predates the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
* The mercenary group often collaborates with regimes, providing them with both physical and political protection in return for exclusive mining rights.
* The gold, often extracted via exploitative and coercive means, is smuggled and laundered through various means, notably via the Middle East and China.
What they’re saying: Jessica Berlin, political analyst and co-author of the report, states that, ~~”This is part of a cohesive global strategy and that if you enable one, you’re enabling the other.”~~ She argues that the blood gold trade directly enables Russia’s foreign aggression and human rights violations.
What to watch: While current sanctions on the Wagner Group and individuals within their sphere are having some effect, Berlin suggests that increased and more targeted sanctions could further reduce Wagner’s ability to profit from the blood gold trade.
* She suggests focusing not just on Wagner and its supply, but also on the regimes contracting them, discouraging future engagements with Wagner.
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