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Russia's Wagner to be declared a terrorist organisation by UK: BBC

Russia's Wagner to be declared a terrorist organisation by UK: BBC
A flag with the logo of Wagner private mercenary group is attached to a car during an automobile rally at a patriotic festival marking Russia's National Flag Day in the Moscow region, Russia, Aug 23, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters file

LONDON — The Russian mercenary Wagner Group is set to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the British government, the interior ministry said on Wednesday (Sept 6), making it illegal to be a member or to support the group.

A draft order due to laid before parliament will allow Wagner's assets to be categorised as terrorist property and seized, the ministry said in a statement.

Britain's interior minister Suella Braverman described the Wagner Group as "violent and destructive", adding it "acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin's Russia overseas".

Across Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa, Wagner has been involved in looting, torture and "barbarous murders", the statement said, calling it a threat to global security.

"They are terrorists, plain and simple — and this proscription order makes that clear in UK law," she said.

The order is expected to come into force on Sept 13, after which it would be a criminal offence to belong to or promote the group, arrange or address its meetings and carry its logo in public, punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

David Lammy, the opposition Labour Party's foreign affairs policy chief, said the move was "long overdue".

"Now the government should press for a Special Tribunal to prosecute Putin for his crime of aggression," he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Wagner mercenary group has operated in Syria, Libya and a number of countries across northern and western Africa. It recruited thousands of convicts from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine, providing the main assault force for Russia's 2022-2023 winter offencive there.

In June this year the group launched a brief mutiny in Russia, condemned as treason by President Vladimir Putin, and on Aug 23 its boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and top lieutenants were killed in a plane crash.

Britain sanctioned Prigozhin in 2020, the Wagner Group as a whole in March 2022, and in July this year sanctioned individuals and businesses with links to the group in the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan.

Lawmakers on parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in July urged more targeted sanctions on what it said were a "web of entities" beneath the Wagner Group.

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