Britain will declare Russian mercenary group Wagner a terrorist organization and make its membership or support illegal, the government said on Wednesday.
A draft decision to be submitted to Parliament will allow Wagner’s assets to be classified as terrorist property and confiscated, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Interior Minister Suella Braverman described Wagner as “violent and destructive”.
It served as “a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia abroad,” she said.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Wagner does not exist from a legal point of view.
“There is nothing to comment on,” he said when asked about the measure.
Throughout Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa, Wagner was involved in looting, torture and “barbaric killings,” the British statement said, calling it a threat to global security.
“They are terrorists, pure and simple – and this prohibition order makes that clear in British law,” Braverman said.
The order is expected to go into effect on September 13. After that, belonging to or promoting the group, arranging their meetings or giving a speech and wearing their logo in public would be a criminal offense, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
David Lammy, foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said the move was “long overdue”.
The government must now push for Putin to be prosecuted for his aggression, he said.
Wagner was active in Syria and a number of countries in North and West Africa.
It recruited thousands of convicts from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine and provided the main assault force for Russia’s 2022-2023 winter offensive there.
A brief mutiny broke out in Russia in June, which Putin condemned as treason, and on August 23 their boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and his senior lieutenants were killed in a plane crash.
The UK imposed sanctions on Prigozhin in 2020, Wagner as a whole in March 2022 and in July this year sanctions on individuals and companies with links to the group in Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan.