Russia’s Wagner Group has supplied anti-aircraft missiles to the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) in Sudan, the United States Department of Treasury said on May 25.
The accusations came in a statement announcing new U.S. sanctions against the head of Russia’s Wagner Group in Mali, Ivan Aleksandrovich Maslov.
“Most recently in Sudan, the Wagner Group has been supplying Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces with surface-to-air missiles to fight against Sudan’s army, contributing to a prolonged armed conflict that only results in further chaos in the region,” the statement reads.
Earlier this week, the US declassified information claiming that Wagner is trying to procure weapons from Africa, specifically Mali, for use in the ongoing Russian special military operation in Ukraine. No evidence was presented to back these accusations, however.
The RSF has been battling the Sudanese military for dominance in the capital, Khartoum, and other parts of the country since mid-April. The clashes claimed the lives of more than 800 people and wounded dozens others, according to medical sources.
A fragile ceasefire brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia last week decreased clashes between the army and the RSF in Sudan, but has so far failed to bring it to a full halt. Russia maintains a neutral stance over the conflict.
The Sudanese Air Force, which remained loyal to the army, targets the RSF on a regular basis. On May 24, a fighter jet crashed near the city of Omdurman. The paramilitary force alleged that it was shot down by its fighters. Eyewitnesses confirmed later that the jet was hit by anti-aircraft gunfire.
RSF is known to be equipped with anti-aircraft missiles. Several U.S.-made AN/TWQ-1 Avenger short-range systems and Chinese-made FN-6 man-portable systems were spotted with the force in recent weeks. However, these systems were allegedly supplied by the United Arab Emirates, not Wagner. The group does not even possess these systems.
Wagner maintains a large presence in Mali and several other African nations to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups under legitimate contracts.
The group’s success in Ukraine, including its recent victory over U.S.-backed Kiev forces in the strategic city of Bakhmut, has apparently triggered Washington which is now attempting to counter its growing influence in Africa and other parts of the world.