The UK government is poised to designate Wagner, the infamous Russian mercenary group as a terrorist organization in a move that would make membership or support for the organization illegal. The impending draft order to be tabled in Parliament is set to categorize the mercenary group’s assets as terrorist property, hence subject to seizure.
Wagner’s deeds are “violent and destructive… a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” expressed the Home Secretary. She noted the group’s activities in Ukraine and Africa, stating they pose “a threat to global security”.
“Wagner’s ongoing destabilizing actions ultimately serve the Kremlin’s political aspirations,” said Suella Braverman. She concluded by stating, “They are terrorists, plain and simple – and this proscription order will ascertain that in UK law.”
The mercenary group has been instrumental in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has also operated in Syria and several African nations like Libya and Mali. Allegations against its fighters range from murder to the torture of Ukrainian citizens.
In 2020, Wagner soldiers were accused by the U.S. of having planted landmines in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The UK condemned the action, stating that the group had conducted “executions and torture in Mali and the Central African Republic”.
The fate of the group hung in the balance earlier this year when a failed mutiny led by its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin against Russia’s military leaders took place. Prigozhin created the group in 2014 and his suspicious death in a plane crash alongside other Wagner figures on August 23, left the group in a limbo.
Soon, Wagner’s name would feature among other proscribed UK organisations, such as Hamas and Boko Haram. The Terrorism Act 2000 graces the home secretary with the authority to proscribe an organization if they believe it is associated with terrorism.
The forthcoming proscription order will criminalize the act of supporting the group, including arranging meetings to propagate the group’s activities. Those found guilty of a proscription offence could face a 14-year prison sentence or a fine of up to £5,000.
For several months, the Government had faced mounting pressure from MPs to proscribe the group. Earlier in the year, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, pressed for the proscription of Wagner citing its responsibility for the “appalling atrocities in Ukraine and across the world.”
Following the draft order’s details emerging on Tuesday, Mr. Lammy welcomed it, stating, “The government has finally acted, which is welcome despite being overdue. I now urge the government to press for a Special Tribunal to prosecute Putin for his crime of aggression.”
Sanctions had already been imposed on the group by the Foreign Office, with assets of Prigozhin and several top commanders frozen. Alicia Kearns, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Conservative MP, asserted that “Sanctions are not enough – the UK needs to proscribe the Wagner group for what it is: a terrorist organisation.”
The Wagner Group’s failed mutiny in June and the recent loss of its top leadership in a plane crash has significantly weakened the organization. Once proscribed by UK law, the mercenary group would face difficulties in money movement. This legal action also paves the way for Ukrainians and others to sue Wagner for potentially billions of pounds in compensation through the British courts.