HomeNewsRussia's Wagner mercenary group to be proscribed as terrorist organisation

Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to be proscribed as terrorist organisation

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This handout picture posted on July 20, 2023, on the Belarusian Defence Ministry’s Telegram channel shows a joint training of PMC Wagner fighters with Belarusian special forces servicemen at the Brestsky military ground. — AFP/File

The UK government, on Wednesday, is likely to declare the Russian mercenary group Wagner a terrorist organisation, making it illegal to be a part of or support the group.

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

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 has been charged with a number of crimes, including the murder and torture of Ukrainian residents by its fighters in Africa and Syria and was a prominent force in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the UK claims the organisation had taken out “executions and torture in Mali and the Central African Republic” in July, the US claimed that Wagner forces had laid landmines around Tripoli, the capital of Libya, in 2020.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group’s founder, attempted a failed coup against Russia’s military leaders earlier this year, raising concerns about the group’s viability.

Along with other Wagner figures, Prigozhin died on August 23 in a suspected jet crash and was buried in St Petersburg.

However, now that the group has been outlawed by the UK, its name will appear alongside that of other organisations like Hamas and Boko Haram.

Prior to the Terrorism Act of 2000, only Northern Ireland had the authority to order the home secretary to ban a group accused of supporting terrorism.

As a result of the government’s proscription order, it is now illegal to organise meetings for, express support for, or exhibit a group’s flag or logo. The order could result in 14 years in prison or a fine of up to £5,000 following persistent 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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