Wagner to be declared a terrorist organisation by UK
The UK government is on the verge of officially designating Wagner, the Russian mercenary group, as a terrorist organization, which will render membership or support for the group illegal. A forthcoming parliamentary order will authorize the classification of its assets as terrorist property, subject to seizure.
The home secretary characterized Wagner as a “violent and destructive force” and a “military instrument of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.” She pointed out that the group’s operations in Ukraine and various African nations pose a serious threat to global security.
Suella Braverman further asserted that Wagner’s actions continue to advance the political objectives of the Kremlin, categorically branding them as terrorists under UK law through this prescription order.
Wagner has played a significant role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has conducted operations in Syria, Libya, Mali, and other African countries. Allegations against its fighters include crimes such as the killing and torture of Ukrainian civilians. In 2020, the United States accused Wagner soldiers of planting landmines in the vicinity of Tripoli, Libya.
Moreover, in July of the same year, the UK accused the group of carrying out “executions and torture in Mali and the Central African Republic.”
Earlier this year, the group’s future became uncertain when its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, led a failed mutiny against Russia’s military leaders.
Prigozhin, who established the group in 2014, passed away in a suspicious plane crash alongside other Wagner figures on August 23 and was laid to rest in St. Petersburg. Wagner’s name will now be added to the list of proscribed organizations in the UK, alongside groups like Hamas and Boko Haram.
The Terrorism Act of 2000 grants the home secretary the authority to proscribe an organization if there are concerns about its involvement in terrorism.
Before the enactment of this law, it was only possible to proscribe organizations linked to terrorism in Northern Ireland. The proscription order will criminalize any support for the group, including arranging meetings to further its activities, expressing support for its objectives, or displaying its flag or logo.
Committing a proscription offense could lead to 14 years in prison or a fine of up to £5,000.
The government had come under pressure from MPs for some months to proscribe the group.
Earlier this year, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy urged the government to proscribe Wagner saying it was “responsible for the appalling atrocities in Ukraine and across the world”.
Welcoming the draft order on Tuesday, Mr Lammy said on social media: “This is long overdue, but it’s welcome the government has finally acted. Now the government should press for a Special Tribunal to prosecute Putin for his crime of aggression.”
The Foreign Office had imposed sanctions on the group, including freezing the assets of Prigozhin and several top commanders.
However, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said in July: “Sanctions are not enough – the UK needs to proscribe the Wagner group for what it is: a terrorist organization.”
Her committee also produced a report which said the government had been “remarkably complacent” and criticized its “dismal lack of understanding of Wagner’s hold beyond Europe, in particular, their grip on African states”.
The Wagner Group has been seriously weakened by its failed mutiny in June against Russia’s generals, as well as the recent death in the plane crash of its top leadership, BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner writes.
But prescribing it in law will make it harder for members to move money around, our correspondent adds. It will also provide a legal basis for Ukrainians and others to sue Wagner for potentially billions of pounds in compensation through the British courts.