On Friday the United Kingdom officially declared the Russian mercenary Wagner Group a terrorist organization, which comes over a week after the measure was first introduced in Parliament.
“This order comes into force with immediate effect and will make belonging to the Wagner Group or actively supporting the group in the UK a criminal [offense], with a potential jail sentence of 14 years which can be handed down alongside or in place of a fine,” the UK Home Office stated.
Wagner is now on a list along with 78 other proscribed organizations that includes ISIS, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other better known terror organizations which have lengthy histories of attacking civilians and conducting terror bombings.
“The UK has consistently called out the violent and destructive actions of Wagner Group, and included the group in a first wave of sanctions against Russia in early 2022,” the release said.
UK officials further said Wagner’s new listing as a terrorist organization “sends a clear message that the UK will not tolerate Russia’s proxies and their barbaric actions in Ukraine.” The move to make this happened gained steam after in July the British government sanctioned 13 Wagner-linked individuals and businesses.
But the Biden administration has yet to declare Wagner a terror organization, amid an ongoing fight in Congress where there’s debate over proposed legislation.
Biden’s reluctance has angered hawks in Congress. An FTO designation would impose far-reaching costs on the group and open up more means of targeting the mercenary firm by Washington, including going after third parties that deal with Wagner.
But one Congressional aide previously explained to The Hill that the hesitancy relates to other regions of the world where Wagner is active, and that unexpected consequences would accrue and impact US relations with certain countries:
“[The State Department] is concerned that if suddenly the FTO designation lands on Wagner, that those governments, where there’s various officials that deal with them [Wagner], that they would all, immediately be blocked from travel to the United States and have their assets seized for coming into contact with the FTO. So that’s the nature of their concern,” the aide said.
“They claim they’re not opposed to it on Ukraine grounds, but they’re opposed to it on Africa grounds.”
But with Yevgeny Prigozhin believed dead after his plane was downed on August 23, and with Wagner having been essentially disbanded and outlawed inside Ukraine, there may be less of Congressional incentive and drive at this point to attempt to push the designation through. However, Wagner is still very active in Africa.