Britain is to ban Russian mercenary outfit the Wagner Group as a terrorist organisation, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed Wednesday.
“Given the activities they’re involved with, it’s important that as far as the UK is concerned, it will be illegal to be part of them,” Shapps told Sky News.
His comments came hours after British media reported that Home Secretary Suella Braverman was to make the Wagner Group a “proscribed” organisation under anti-terror laws, putting it on a par with Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
“Wagner is a violent and destructive organisation which has acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas,” the Daily Mail quoted Braverman as saying.
“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.”
Under the Terrorism Act 2000 the home secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if they believe it is involved in terrorism.
A proscription order makes it a criminal offence to support the group.
“They are terrorists, plain and simple — and this proscription order makes that clear in UK law,” a BBC report added, quoting Braverman.
“Wagner has been involved in looting, torture and barbarous murders,” Braverman added in the Daily Mail.
The group’s operations in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa “are a threat to global security,” she said.
“That is why we are proscribing this terrorist organisation and continuing to aid Ukraine wherever we can in its fight against Russia.”
Draft measures to ban the Wagner Group under the act will be laid in parliament on Wednesday, the reports said.
Shapps said the measures will ban people in the UK from being “actively involved” in the group or displaying its logo.
In July, Britain announced sanctions against 13 individuals and businesses it said had links to the Russian group in Africa, accusing it of crimes there including killings and torture.
The people and entities targeted — which are no longer able to deal with UK citizens, companies and banks, and have any UK assets frozen — were allegedly involved in Wagner’s activities in Mali, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan.
They included the purported head of Wagner in Mali, Ivan Aleksandrovitch Maslov; its chief in CAR, Vitalii Viktorovitch Perfilev; and the group’s operations head there, Konstantin Aleksandrovitch Pikalov.
Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died last month in a plane crash, had already been sanctioned by Britain alongside several of his key commanders who had participated in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Prigozhin — a Kremlin confidant turned “traitor” — died two months after ordering his troops to topple Russia’s military leadership.