The U.S. government will delay new sanctions against the Russian private military organization Wagner after the group launched a coup attempt against the Russian government on Friday, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The State Department was set to announce a new set of sanctions Tuesday on the group’s gold business in Africa, which contains a mining operation in the Central African Republic. Wagner forces have played a key role in advancing Russian interests in Africa and the Middle East prior to the coup attempt.
Biden Administration officials are seemingly puzzled over the recent unrest and do not know who to support, fearing that new sanctions on the Wagner Group would inadvertently help Putin. “Washington does not want to appear to be taking sides in this,” an unnamed source familiar with the matter told the outlet.
Cameron Hudson, a former chief of staff to the U.S. special envoy for Sudan, agreed that the situation has placed the State Department in a tough position. “Washington has had a strategy in place to target, isolate, and weaken Wagner’s growth in Africa, continuing that approach now potentially puts Washington in the difficult position of assisting Putin.”
The group had already faced U.S. sanctions over election interference and participation in the Ukraine conflict, though the latest package was to be aimed at curtailing Wagner’s international influence.
The Wall Street Journal report was released roughly an hour before Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin agreed to withdraw his forces from Rostov and other regions, bringing an end to the coup attempt that lasted nearly 24 hours. “The moment has come when blood can be shed. Understanding all the responsibility for the fact that Russian blood can be shed on one of the sides, we turn our columns around and leave in the opposite direction to the field camps according to the plan,” the private military leader said in an audio statement.
Russian state media soon reported that major changes would be made to the nation’s Ministry of Defense, which was a key demand for Prigozhin. Conflict had been brewing between Wagner forces and the Russian MoD for weeks after Prigozhin accused them of inadequately suppling his troops for battle on the Ukrainian frontlines.
“According to Russian State Media, Major Changes to the Leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defense including changes to the current Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu and Army Chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov have reportedly been Agreed upon in order to Stop the March of the Wagner PMC Group towards the Capital of Moscow; these Negotiations have also reportedly included the assured ‘Security of the Wagner Group’,” OSINT defender reported on the ceasefire agreement.