The United States announced sanctions on a Chinese company on January 26. This company is suspected of providing Russia with satellite images of Ukraine and supporting the combat operations of the Russian mercenary “Wagner Group”.
The Changsha-based Tianyi Institute of Space Science and Technology, also known as Spacety China, is one of 16 entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department and has offices in Beijing and Luxembourg.
The Wagner Group provided Russia with tens of thousands of mercenary fighters in the Ukraine War.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement that Spacety China had provided Russia-based technology company Terra Tech with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite imagery of the Ukrainian site.
“These images were collected to enable Wagner to conduct combat operations in Ukraine,” the statement said. The U.S. Treasury Department also announced sanctions on the Luxembourg-based subsidiary of the Chinese company.
The sanctions include prohibiting the transfer, payment or export of any assets or interests in the United States to the targeted entity.
Spacety China has yet to respond to the U.S. move.
A close ally of Russia, China has been trying to position itself as a neutral in the Ukraine war. China has been criticized by the United States and its allies for refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Who is Spacety China?
On its website, Spacety China states that the company “focuses on SAR constellation construction and SAR satellite data services” and is a “pioneer and leader” in commercializing SAR remote sensing satellites and scientific research satellites.
According to the website, Tianyi Research Institute was established in 2016. It has carried out 14 space missions, launched 25 satellites, and has more than 200 commercial users. Its goal is to become a “world-class small satellite development and data service provider” by 2030.
SAR is a radar technology that provides higher-resolution images using shorter antennas.
According to Spacety China‘s website, the company’s CEO, Yang Feng, is an expert in the expert pool of China‘s Ministry of Science and Technology and a deputy to the Changsha Municipal People’s Congress.
The website also lists some of the company’s partners, including state-owned companies China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and China Electronics Technology Corporation.
What did the Wagner Group do in Ukraine?
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine last March, U.S. officials said at least a thousand Wagnerian mercenaries were deployed in eastern Ukraine: “We know they’re there,” Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said last March. said at a monthly briefing. “We know that they want to expand their presence in Ukraine.”
The intelligence also said that the Wagner group began mass recruitment of fighters last year because Russia was having trouble recruiting troops for its regular army.
The National Security Council estimates that about 80 percent of the Wagner fighters sent to Ukraine were recruited from prison.
Wagner has played a key role in Russia’s war effort in Ukraine and has been actively involved in Russia’s attempt to seize control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
The Wagner Group is directed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Why did the United States increase sanctions?
In addition to Spacety China, 15 other entities, eight individuals and four aircraft, many of them located in Russia, that allegedly formed part of Wagner’s global support network were also subject to U.S. sanctions.
These include Sewa Security Services, based in Central Africa, and Kratol Aviation, based in the United Arab Emirates, which are accused of providing aircraft to transport personnel and equipment between Central Africa, Libya and Mali.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the State Department also announced on the 26th that the Wagner Group was classified as a “major transnational criminal organization.”
In a statement, Secretary of State Blinken said the new sanctions were intended to “further impede the Kremlin’s ability to arm its war machine,” adding that the action would also “promote accountability for Russia and other those responsible for related abuses, Further pressure on the Russian Ministry of Defense.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also said: “Expanded sanctions on Wagner, along with new sanctions on their associates and other companies supporting Russia’s military complex, will further hinder Putin’s ability to arm and equip his war machine .”