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The United States classifies a Russian mercenary group as an international criminal organization

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The United States called the Russian mercenary group Wagner a “transnational criminal organization” and vowed additional sanctions on Friday.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Wagner “is a criminal organization that continues to commit atrocities and human rights abuses on a large scale,” adding that the Biden administration will impose economic sanctions on the organization and its “support network” next week.

“These actions recognize the transcontinental threat posed by Wagner, including through its continuing pattern of serious criminal activity,” Kirby said.

He added, “Our message to any company considering providing support to Wagner is simple: Wagner is a criminal organization that commits atrocities and human rights abuses on a massive scale.”

Wagner has about 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine in order to bolster Russia’s war effort there, according to US estimates. The company has been central to recent Russian gains in the Donbass and has been involved in conflicts around the world, including in Libya, the Central African Republic and Mali.

On Thursday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group’s leader, said his mercenaries had “completely taken control” of Klychyvka, a major suburb of the city of Bakhmut, through which weapons and military equipment were supplied to Ukrainian forces.

Prigozhin claimed that “fierce battles” continued around Klishchevka, with “Ukrainians clinging to every meter of land”.

“Contrary to the various opinions that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) are fleeing Artyomovsk (the Russian name for Bakhmut), this is not the case. The AFU is working clearly and smoothly. We have a lot to learn from them. After meters. Artyomovsk settlement will be taken.

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