UK government to declare Russia’s Wagner group as ‘terrorist organisation

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The UK government is set to designate the Russian mercenary organisation Wagner as a terrorist organisation, making it unlawful to be a member or supporter of the group, BBC reported on Wednesday.

Its assets will be designated as terrorist property and seized under a drafted order that will be submitted to parliament as Wagner, according to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, is “violent and destructive… a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” and its operations in Africa and Ukraine pose a “threat to global security.”

Braverman continued: “Wagner’s continuing destabilising activities only continue to serve the Kremlin’s political goals. They are terrorists, plain and simple — and this proscription order makes that clear in UK law.”

Wagner, a significant force in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been accused of various crimes, including the murder and torture of Ukrainian citizens by its fighters in Syria and Africa.

In 2020, the US said Wagner soldiers had planted landmines around the Libyan capital, Tripoli while in July, the UK said the group had carried out “executions and torture in Mali and the Central African Republic”.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who created the group in 2014, staged a failed rebellion against Russia’s military commanders earlier this year, casting doubt on the group’s future.

He’s buried in St Petersburg after passing away on August 23 in a suspected jet crash alongside other Wagner figures.

Nevertheless, the group’s name will now be included among those of other organisations that the UK has banned, such as Hamas and Boko Haram.

The Terrorism Act 2000 empowers the home secretary to prohibit an organisation suspected of terrorism, a move that was previously only possible in Northern Ireland.

The government has imposed a proscription order, making it a criminal offence to support a group, including organising meetings, expressing support, or displaying its flag or logo. The order could result in 14 years in prison or a fine of up to £5,000 after constant pressure from MPs.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary for Labour, called for the government to ban Wagner earlier this year, claiming it was “responsible for the appalling atrocities in Ukraine and around the world.”

Welcoming the draft order on Tuesday, 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 organisation.”

According to a report that was also produced by her committee, the government had been “remarkably complacent” and the report also criticised its “dismal lack of understanding of Wagner’s hold beyond Europe, in particular their grip on African states”.

The Wagner Group, weakened by a failed mutiny against Russia’s generals and the death of its top leadership, may face legal prosecution for billions of pounds in compensation through the British courts.

This would make it harder for members to move money and provide a legal basis for lawsuits.

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