Wagner Group: Russia mercenaries to be designated terrorist organisation in UK - what does that mean?
The move comes after Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash last month
Prior to a draft order being presented to Parliament on Wednesday (6 September), Defence Secretary Grant Shapps defended the length of time it has taken to proscribe the group, insisting the Government had to follow the correct process.
“One of the reasons, of course, is we have a democratic system, we have to declassify information in order to take these issues, to make them robust in front of courts,” he told Times Radio. He said it is right that the group is being proscribed now; “There is a process you have to follow to do those things.”
But what exactly does it mean to be designated as a terrorist organisation by the UK government? Here is everything you need to know about it.
What does it mean to be designated a terrorist organisation?
The order will mean that, once passed, it is illegal to be a member of or support the Wagner Group. Wagner’s assets can also be categorised as terrorist property and seized. Certain proscription offences can be punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
The newly appointed Defence Secretary told LBC: “Essentially it means that you can no longer or will no longer be able to be a part of that group in the UK because they will be deemed as a terrorist organisation so you wouldn’t be able to belong to it, you wouldn’t be able to use their insignias or logos."
To "proscribe" something means to officially forbid, ban or make it illegal or unacceptable. Proscription is a measure used by governments to combat terrorism and other activities deemed a threat to national security.
Under the Terrorism Act 2000, when a group is proscribed as a terrorist organisation, it means that the UK government has officially designated that group as illegal, and it is a criminal offence to be a member of, support or engage in activities on behalf of that organisation.
Membership, support or participation in any activities related to a proscribed terrorist organisation is a criminal offence. This includes providing funds, resources or any form of assistance to the group.
Sharing or promoting the ideology, propaganda, or activities of a proscribed group online can also be considered a criminal offence.
Individuals associated with a proscribed group may be subject to travel restrictions. They can be prevented from leaving or entering the UK, and their passports may be revoked.
Individuals associated with proscribed groups may be subject to increased surveillance by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and authorities may also have the power to detain individuals associated with proscribed organisations under certain circumstances, even without evidence of specific criminal activities.
Why might Wagner be designated a terrorist group?
If passed, Wagner will join a long list of previously proscribed terrorist groups, which includes Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram.
“We’ve seen how Wagner operate," said Shapps. "Obviously we’ve seen the devastating impact they’ve had or tried to have in Ukraine, but they also operate in Africa or across the Sahel. And we do not want to see that organisation here. Prescribing them means that becomes illegal once Parliament passes it.”
Proscription of the group comes after consideration of the nature and scale of the organisation’s activities as well as the threat it poses to British nationals abroad, the Home Office added.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman called the group a “violent and destructive organisation” and said its “continuing destabilising activities only continue to serve the Kremlin’s political goals”.