US sanctions Chinese firm helping Russia’s Wagner Group, while China accuses US of double standards
The US has sanctioned a Chinese company for allegedly providing satellite imagery of Ukraine to support the mercenary Wagner Group’s combat operations for Russia.
China on Monday accused the U.S. of “outright bullying and double standards” in levelling what it called “illegal” sanctions on Chinese companies as part of U.S. actions against Russia’s Wagner Group and related companies and individuals.
The sanctions “have no basis in international law or authorization from the Security Council, and are typical illegal unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing.
The punitive measures were “seriously harming China’s interests” and China “strongly rejects and deplores that and has lodged solemn complaints with the U.S. side,” Mao said.
“While the U.S. has intensified its efforts to send weapons to one of the parties to the conflict, resulting in an endless war, it has frequently spread false information about China’s supply of weapons to Russia, taking the opportunity to sanction Chinese companies for no reason,” she said. “This is outright bullying and double standards.”
The Treasury and State departments announced the moves in coordinated statements that targeted dozens of Wagner Group affiliates, including some in the Central African Republic and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the president of Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern, the original manufacturer of the AK-47 assault rifle.
Wagner, a private Russian military company, supplies Russia thousands of fighters in the Ukraine war.
Wagner now commands some 50,000 fighters in Ukraine, according to estimates from the White House. The organisation plays a key role in Russia’s war efforts, and has been heavily involved in attempts to capture Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine.
It is led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute is among 16 entities slapped with curbs by the Treasury Department.
The firm, also known as Spacety China, has offices in Beijing and Luxembourg.
Spacety China had provided Terra Tech, a Russia-based technology firm, with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite images of locations in Ukraine, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement on Thursday.
“These images were gathered in order to enable Wagner combat operations in Ukraine,” it said. The department has also sanctioned Spacety’s Luxembourg-based subsidiary.
Under the sanctions, there can be no transfer, payment, or export of any property or interests in the United States to the targeted entities.
Spacety China has yet to respond to the move.
China, a strategic partner of Russia, has attempted to position itself as a neutral party with regard to the Ukraine war. It has been criticised by the US and its allies for refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
President Biden on Friday underscored that there’s no evidence “so far” that China is siding with Russia, but said he spoke about the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I had a long conversation with Xi about this in the summer. And I said, ‘Look, this is not a threat. It’s just a statement. When, in fact, Europeans saw what was happening, and Americans saw what’s happening in Russia — in Europe, guess what? Six hundred corporations pulled out. They left. They didn’t want to be associated,’” Biden said.
Also on Monday, China accused the U.S. of undermining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait by flying a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft through the narrow waterway, which China claims as its territory along with the island of Taiwan. Taiwan and the U.S. consider the strait to be international territory, and it is regularly traversed by U.S. warships and sometimes aircraft.
“The action of the U.S. deliberately interferes with and disrupts the situation in the region and jeopardizes peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We firmly oppose this action,” the Eastern Theater Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said in a statement.
A statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet, which has operational command of all U.S. naval forces in the region, said the flight demonstrated Washington’s “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
On Friday, a Chinese fighter jet flew within 500 feet of the same aircraft as it patrolled the South China Sea. A U.S. Navy officer told NBC News journalists on board that such encounters, while professional in nature, were becoming more frequent.
Next week, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko plans to visit China amid concerns about Beijing taking steps to help Russia in its war against Ukraine.
Belarus, which has long been an ally of Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, is one of the only countries in the world to openly stand by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the war has progressed. China has officially been neutral, but U.S. officials have claimed that Beijing has been supplying Russia with nonlethal aid and is considering sending lethal aid — such as weapons and munitions too.
Lukashenko will be the most recent authoritarian ruler that China has hosted after it welcomed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi earlier this month. Lukashenko has served as the president of Belarus since 1994, winning six consecutive elections that have not been recognized as free or fair by much of the international community.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said after China issued a 12-point plan calling for a cease-fire on Friday that he also wants to meet with Xi and is somewhat open to considering the proposal.
This article was reported by AP and the Hill.