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The United Kingdom announced plans to officially designate the notorious Russian private military contractor Wagner Group as a terrorist organization. The Wagner Group, which has become a key element of Russia's military campaigns abroad, will join the ranks of ISIS and al-Qaeda as proscribed terrorist entities under British law.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated that the Wagner Group will face a raft of tough penalties once the terrorist designation takes effect, expected on September 13th. At that point, participating in or providing support to Wagner will become a criminal offense punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. The group's financial assets in Britain will also be frozen and subject to seizure.
According to Braverman, the mercenary outfit led by tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin has been involved in "barbarous murders" and acts of torture across conflict zones like Syria, Ukraine, and parts of Africa. She branded Wagner as nothing more than "terrorists" that pose a threat to global security as a military proxy advancing Russian President Vladimir Putin's interests abroad.
By formalizing Wagner's status as a terror group, the UK government aims to limit the organization's ability to operate and build dangerous influence internationally. The British move follows months of Wagner spearheading Russia's faltering war effort in Ukraine, where its convict recruits mounted repeated assaults on entrenched Ukrainian lines such as Bakhmut.
Wagner has become an integral part of Moscow's global military footprint, deploying to foreign hotspots to secure Russian objectives through deniable means. But its brutal tactics and swelling clout have alarmed Western officials. Formal terrorist designation puts legal teeth behind declaring the shadowy mercenary network a hostile force.
The UK designation will make participating in Wagner events or even publicly displaying its logos a crime. British citizens can now face prosecution just for expressing support online. The goal is to undermine the group's ability to function and recruit in territories aligned against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Predictably, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the designation of the unofficial Russian military arm as legally meaningless. The Kremlin officially denies Wagner's very existence, despite extensive evidence of its operations across various conflict zones.
Still, the British move represents a major blow to the group's cultivated image. Wagner relies heavily on global recruitment and optics projecting its fighters as badass mercenaries, making terrorist label reputational poison. Being lumped together with reviled groups like ISIS undermines those efforts.
The UK follows the United States, Canada and several Eastern European nations in blacklisting Wagner as a malign entity. But the British decision goes further by placing the group in the same legal category as al-Qaeda and Boko Haram terrorists. It cements Wagner’s status as a pariah in much of the Western world.
Yet with the war in Ukraine locked in a grinding stalemate, Wagner remains a potent foe on the battlefield. Only time will tell if terrorist designation can impose real restraints on its destabilizing activities abroad. But formally assigning Wagner pariah status puts legal teeth behind Western efforts to counter Russia's hybrid warfare capabilities.
Summarised from the original article by Jill Lawless for apnews.com
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