UK to label Wagner a terrorist organization

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The U.K. government will categorize Wagner Group as a terrorist organization, under a draft order due before parliament on Wednesday.

The proscription order from the U.K. Home Office will make it a criminal offense to be a member of or to support the state-backed Russian mercenary group, according to a statement from the government department. It will also be an offense to use the group’s logo.

The move will allow the U.K. to seize Wagner assets as “terrorist property.” Breaching the order could lead to 14 years in prison or a fine of up to £5,000, the Home Office said.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Wagner is a “violent and destructive organization which has acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas.”

“They are terrorists, plain and simple — and this proscription order makes that clear in U.K. law,” she said, adding that Wagner’s operations are a “threat to global security.”

The Russian mercenary group was founded in 2014 by Yevgeny Prigozhin and Dmitry Utkin — both of whom were killed in a plane crash north of Moscow in August.

The crash came exactly two months after Wagner’s failed uprising against the Kremlin, in which Prigozhin turned against Russia’s military leadership.

Wagner has played a key role in Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine since February 2022, providing tens of thousands of fighters in some of the war’s fiercest battles. It has also been involved in conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, where the group has been accused of committing atrocities.

For years, the Kremlin did not publicly acknowledge its links to the group. But Russian President Vladimir Putin recently admitted that Wagner was indeed fully funded by the Kremlin.

The British government has been under pressure to label the group a terrorist organization for months.

In July, a report by a U.K. parliamentary committee found that the government had failed for years to adequately respond to the threats posed by the group and asked for it to be proscribed.

The move will now place Wagner in the same category as other organizations, such as Boko Haram and Hamas.

On Wednesday, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy welcomed news of the draft order, saying the move was “long overdue.”