UK to declare Russia’s Wagner Group a ‘terrorist’ organisation

Designation of the group, condemned as a ‘threat to global security’, could be made as early as Wednesday.

Russian officers from the Wagner group
Russian officers from the Wagner group in Bangui in July [File: Reuters/Leger Kokpakpa]

The United Kingdom government is set to designate Wagner, the Russian mercenary group, as a “terrorist” organisation.

The BBC, the UK’s public service broadcaster, reported a draft order would be put forward in parliament to allow Wagner’s assets to be categorised as “terrorist” property and seized. The designation will make it illegal for anyone in the UK to be a member of the group or support it.

The Guardian newspaper said the order would be presented on Wednesday.

The decision to proscribe the group under the Terrorism Act 2000 was taken due to “the nature and scale of the organisation’s activities as well as the threat they pose to British nationals abroad,” the Guardian cited the Home Office as saying.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman described Wagner as “violent and destructive… a military tool of [President] Vladimir Putin’s Russia” and said its activities were a “threat to global security”.

The UK has already imposed sanctions on Wagner, some of its senior commanders and those linked to it in Africa, over alleged human rights abuses, but had been under pressure to go further.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, noted the opposition Labour party had called in February for the proscription.

“This is long overdue, but it’s welcome the government has finally acted,” Lammy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Now the government should press for a Special Tribunal to prosecute Putin for his crime of aggression.”

Wagner played a prominent role in Moscow’s war in Ukraine and was instrumental in Russia’s capture of Bakhmut city in May. It has also been active in several African countries and Syria.

Its chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed when his private jet crashed on its way from Moscow to St Petersburg in August, two months to the day that he launched a brief and unsuccessful mutiny against Russia’s top military leaders.

Wagner troops have reportedly been sent to Belarus and their future role in Ukraine remains unclear.

“While Putin’s regime decides what to do with the monster it created, Wagner’s continuing destabilising activities only continue to serve the Kremlin’s political goals,” Braverman said.

“They are terrorists, plain and simple – and this proscription order makes that clear in UK law.”

Source: Al Jazeera