Britain sanctions Wagner-linked officials in three African countries
PHOTO CAPTION: A photo published by the Security Service of Ukraine purports to show Wagner Group mercenaries at an unidentified location. (ssu.gov.ua)
LONDON, July 20 (Reuters) - Britain on Thursday sanctioned 13 individuals and businesses in the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan with links to Russia's Wagner Group, including one it described as the "right hand man" of the group's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The British government said it had added Wagner officials to its sanctions list, accusing them of being responsible for executions and torture in Mali and the Central African Republic and of threats to peace and security in Sudan.
The sanctions come weeks after Prigozhin's failed mutiny in Russia, which raised questions about the future of Wagner's military and commercial operations in countries including CAR.
Newly-sanctioned Konstantin Pikalyov, who now faces asset freezes in the UK and a travel ban, is an important advisor of Prigozhin's as well as being the operational head of Wagner in the CAR, the British government said in a statement.
"Wherever Wagner operates, it has a catastrophic effect on communities, worsens existing conflicts and damages the reputations of countries that host them," Britain's minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell said.
Among others sanctioned were Vitaly Perfilov in the CAR and Alexander Maloletko, who it called a close associate of Prigozhin, plus Ivan Maslov, the head of the Wagner Group in Mali.
In Sudan, Britain added Mikhail Potepkin, who it said was associated with the Wagner Group as well as being a director of mining company Meroe Gold.
Meroe Gold was among three businesses the government said it had sanctioned in Sudan for acting as fronts for the Wagner Group and threatening peace and security. It said Meroe Gold had imported equipment including weapons, helicopters and military trucks.
(Reporting by Farouq Sulieman, writing by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton and Kylie MacLellan)