The United Kingdom has officially designated the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, as a terrorist organization, with support for the group now punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The order was laid down in Parliament on September 6, and it comes into effect immediately. The move is aimed at curbing the group’s destabilizing activities and preventing it from furthering the Kremlin’s political goals.
The Wagner Group has been a prominent actor in various conflicts, including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where it has operated alongside Russia’s military. It also has a significant presence in Syria and several African countries. Wagner’s future became uncertain in June when its leader, Evgeny Prigozhin, orchestrated a failed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership. Tragically, Prigozhin and other leaders of the group died in a plane crash near Moscow on August 23.
The UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, referred to Wagner as a “threat to global security” and highlighted the group’s involvement in destabilizing activities. By proscribing Wagner as a terrorist organization, the UK has added it to a list of 78 other banned groups, including Hamas, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram.
Under the new legislation, support for Wagner is defined by various terms, such as membership, attending or organizing meetings to further the group’s ambitions, or displaying the Wagner flag or logo. Any form of support for the group is now illegal, and offenders can face a prison sentence of up to 14 years, in addition to fines.
The proscription of the Wagner Group by UK authorities is expected to have wider implications beyond criminalizing membership and support. It is likely to make it more challenging for people associated with the group to move money internationally. Additionally, it provides a legal basis for individuals to use the British court system to pursue legal claims against the group.
The move to designate Wagner as a terrorist organization is part of the UK’s broader efforts to combat terrorism and ensure national security. By outlawing support for this particular group, the UK aims to disrupt its activities and prevent it from furthering Russia’s political interests.
In response to claims that the investigation into the fatal plane crash that claimed the lives of Prigozhin and other Wagner leaders is progressing slowly, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that it is a complex investigation and not a simple incident. He emphasized that the investigation is ongoing, and it would be premature to make any comments at this stage.
Overall, the UK’s decision to proscribe the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization strengthens its commitment to countering terrorism and protecting national security. By criminalizing support for the group, the UK aims to disrupt its operations and prevent it from fulfilling the Kremlin’s objectives. This move also provides a legal framework for pursuing claims against the group and curbing its financial activities globally.