UK set to declare Russia’s Wagner Group as a terrorist organization

Sep 6, 2023, 8:00am EDT
A view shows a makeshift memorial for Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group, and Dmitry Utkin, the group commander, in Moscow, Russia August 29, 2023. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Jenna Moon/

The U.K. government is expected to declare Russia’s notorious Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. Under the move it will be illegal to belong to or support the mercenary group in Britain, with offenses punishable by up to 14 years in jail. Speaking to local media, U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman called the organization a “threat to global security,” adding “they are terrorists, plain and simple.”

The designation comes as forces close to the Kremlin seek to take control of Wagner following the death of its operator, oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. Several private military organizations loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin are courting Wagner soldiers, The Wall Street Journal reported. Among them is Redut, a security company with ties to Russian military intelligence that is subject to sanctions by the U.S. government. Redut hopes to attract Wagner fighters who are put off joining Russian defense forces directly.1

Wagner has long been a proxy of the Kremlin2 , but Prigozhin's leadership gave Putin some deniability that the organization followed Moscow's orders. With the Kremlin taking control of Wagner, all of the group's operations — including its extensive presence in Africa — would fall under Putin's purview. “The bad news for Putin is that this now puts him personally in the dock for Wagner’s exploitation and abuses, and also for the dangers,” Alia Brahimi, a non-resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, told Bloomberg in a recent interview.3

The organization has lost some of its power in the months following its failed mutiny against Putin, but it remains a crucial tool for the Kremlin. Despite being pulled from the battlefield in Ukraine, Wagner still holds a significant presence in Africa, where its forces have replaced France's military troops in several nations, and in Belarus.4