Vladimir Putin-linked mercenary group will be put on par with Isil and al-Qaeda, after death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin
By Charles Hymas, HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR
5 September 2023 •
Proscription will make it a criminal offence to belong to Wagner, attend its meetings, encourage support for it or carry its logo in public, similar to other terrorist groups. Offences under the ban can carry jail terms of up to 14 years.
It also means that Wagner’s assets and finances can be categorised as terrorist property and seized. It will have implications for Wagner’s ability to raise money if any funds went through financial institutions in Britain.
The future of the group – said to number around 25,000 – remains uncertain after its founder and head Yevgeny Prigozhin and his inner circle died in a plane crash caused by a suspected explosion on board.
Its battle-tested fighters are said by some to be too valuable to be disbanded and let go. Observers say that it is unclear if the Kremlin will try to preserve Wagner under new management or create fully-fledged replicas.
A draft proscription order is due to be laid against the Wagner Group in Parliament on Wednesday.
‘They are terrorists, plain and simple’
Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, said: “Wagner is a violent and destructive organisation which has acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas. While Putin’s regime decides what to do with the monster it created, 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 involved in looting, torture and barbarous murders. Its operations in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa are a threat to global security.
“That is why we are proscribing this terrorist organisation and continuing to aid Ukraine wherever we can in its fight against Russia.”
Wagner, often referred to as a private military company, came to international attention after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has been accused of human rights abuses.
There has not been evidence that Wagner or individuals linked to it are operating in Britain since the war in Ukraine started and proscription is largely seen as a symbolic move.
However, Government sources said that there had been “suspicions” that the group had helped launder money out of Britain along with organised crime groups after financial sanctions were imposed against Russian oligarchs and Putin allies in the wake of the war.
Labour has previously backed such a move. David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “It is only right that the government appears to be finally listening to Labour’s calls for its proscription as a terrorist organisation.”