The UK Home Office is set to officially designate the Wagner mercenary group as a terrorist organization. A draft order outlining this designation is set to be presented in parliament on Wednesday, marking it illegal to be associated with or support this Russian group within the UK.
The Wagner group has garnered international attention for its prominent involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which commenced in February 2022. Notably, the group’s activities extend beyond Ukraine, as it has been actively engaged in conflicts in Syria, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Libya.
The Home Office’s decision to proscribe the Wagner group under the Terrorism Act 2000 is based on several factors, including the nature and scale of the organization’s activities and the perceived threat it poses to British nationals abroad.
Britain’s Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, characterized the Wagner Group as “violent and destructive”, adding it “acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas”.
In regions spanning Ukraine, the Middle East, and Africa, Wagner has been implicated in acts of looting, torture, and “barbarous murders”, as stated in the release, portraying it as a menace to international security.
“They are terrorists, plain and simple – and this proscription order makes that clear in UK law.
“That is why we are proscribing this terrorist organisation and continuing to aid Ukraine wherever we can in its fight against Russia,” she said.
Anticipated to take effect on September 13th, the order would render it a criminal offense to be a member of or endorse the group, organize or participate in its gatherings, or display its emblem in public. Those found in violation of these restrictions could face penalties of up to 14 years of imprisonment.
This development follows the recent plane crash that resulted in the demise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group, which occurred last month.
The crash happened precisely two months following Prigozhin’s brief armed uprising against Russia’s military leadership, presenting the most significant challenge to Vladimir Putin’s rule in his 23-year tenure.
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David Lammy, the Labour Party’s chief for foreign affairs policy in the opposition, expressed that this action was “long-awaited” and had been delayed for an extended period.
“Now the government should press for a Special Tribunal to prosecute Putin for his crime of aggression,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In 2020, the United Kingdom imposed sanctions on Prigozhin, followed by sanctions on the entire Wagner Group in March 2022. Additionally, in July of this year, the UK imposed sanctions on individuals and businesses associated with the group in the Central African Republic, Mali, and Sudan.
In July, members of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee called for more precise sanctions on what they described as a “web of entities” affiliated with the Wagner Group.