UK Takes Aim at Russian Mercenary Group Wagner with Terrorism Listing

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The British government is to declare the Russian mercenary Wagner Group as a terrorist organization, making it illegal to be a member or to support the group in the UK. A draft order due to being laid before Parliament will allow Wagner’s assets to be categorized as terrorist property and seized, the ministry said in a statement. Britain’s interior minister Suella Braverman described the Wagner Group as “violent and destructive,” adding that its actions as a military instrument of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin threaten worldwide security.

The Wagner Group is known for its role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and its ongoing operations in Syria and Africa, including Libya, the Central African Republic, and Sudan. It has been accused of looting, torture, and brutal murders. The UK has already sanctioned Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in 2020 and the group as a whole in March 2022, as well as 13 individuals and businesses in connection with the group in Mali, the CAR, and Sudan in July this year.

It is also believed to be involved in attacks on civilians and journalists. The UK government’s decision to proscribe the Wagner Group will make it a criminal offense to belong to or promote the group, arrange its meetings, or carry its logo publicly in Britain, where it could lead to 14 years in prison. It follows a recommendation by Parliament’s foreign affairs committee in July that the mercenary group be banned. Its chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in an August plane crash, just two months after mounting a brief and failed mutiny against top Russian military leaders.

“I’m pleased the Home Secretary (Braverman) is proscribing the Wagner Group today,” Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps told Sky News on Wednesday. “It’s long overdue and will protect the interests of UK citizens both at home and abroad.”

A senior member of Parliament from the opposition Labour Party, David Lammy, welcomed the government’s decision to proscribe the Wagner Group. “We should now press for a special tribunal to prosecute Putin for his crime of aggression,” he wrote on the social network X, formerly Twitter.

It is the first time the British government has placed a private military company on a list of prohibited terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda and Daesh/ISIS. But the move could start a lengthy legal battle with the Russian government over its links to the Wagner Group. The UK will have to prove that the mercenary group is acting at the request and with the consent of Russia’s government, according to a law passed in 2016 to tackle international terrorism financing. If the UK successfully takes legal action, it could force the Wagner Group to open its books and give evidence about its dealings with Russian officials. This would be a significant milestone in exposing the group’s role as a Russian proxy. The mercenary group could also be forced to change its name and stop using a logo featuring the Russian flag.

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