The UK government is planning to ban the Russian mercenary group Wagner as a terrorist organisation, according to a BBC report. The move would make it a criminal offence to belong to, promote, or support the group, which has been accused of human rights violations and war crimes in several countries.
Wagner is a private military company that operates as a proxy for the Russian state, allowing it to deny involvement in foreign conflicts and hide the true casualties of its interventions. Wagner has been active in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Mali, and other countries, where it has fought against the interests of the UK and its allies.
The BBC report cites unnamed sources who say that the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman will announce the proscription of Wagner soon, following a recommendation from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC). The sources say that the decision is based on evidence that Wagner has carried out terrorist acts, such as killing civilians, torturing prisoners, and using chemical weapons.
The UK would be the first country to designate Wagner as a terrorist organisation, although several other countries have imposed sanctions or restrictions on the group or its members. The US, for example, has sanctioned Wagner’s founder and leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is also known as “Putin’s chef” because of his close ties to the Russian president.
Prigozhin and Wagner’s military commander Dmitry Utkin were among the 10 people who died in a plane crash in Russia on August 23. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but some sources have suggested that it was an assassination orchestrated by the Russian intelligence agency FSB.
The UK’s move to ban Wagner comes amid rising tensions with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in 2023 and its support for authoritarian regimes in Africa and the Middle East. The UK has also accused Russia of carrying out cyberattacks, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns on its soil and abroad.
The UK government has not officially confirmed or denied the BBC report, but a spokesperson said that “the UK condemns any use of mercenaries or private military contractors by any state to further its foreign policy objectives in violation of international law”.