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The Times: UK attempt to blacklist Wagner complicated by Putin's reaction to rebellion

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 31, 2023 4:04 PM 2 min read
Wagner Group mercenaries stand on the balcony of a building in Russia's Rostov on June 24, 2023. The mercenary group's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed on June 24 that his forces control all military sites in the city. (Photo: Roman Romokhov/AFP via Getty Images)
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The U.K. government's plans to declare the Wagner Group a terrorist organization has been impacted by the fallout from Yevgeny Prigozhin's brief armed rebellion on June 24, the Times reported on July 30.

Following the uprising, Putin claimed that the private military company had been fully financed by the state and that Wagner fighters will have the option to sign a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry.

The U.K. now faces the issue that blacklisting Wagner would amount to an official arm of the Russian government having the same status as groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

This move would "involve a range of diplomatic and legal complications," reported the Times, citing government sources.

According to the Times, if the government does deem the group a terrorist organization, it would be "a criminal offense to belong to Wagner, attend its meetings, encourage support for it or carry its logo in public."

In May, the Times reported that the U.K. government had spent two months gathering legal evidence to blacklist the group. Senior ministers "are still determined" to find a way to continue this process, the article, published on July 30, said.

For years, the Kremlin had attempted to distance itself from the mercenary group, accused of committing war crimes in a number of countries worldwide.

However, Putin claimed on June 27 that Wagner had received over 86 billion rubles ($1 billion) from the state's budget between May 2022 and May 2023.

Russian state TV host Dmitriy Kiselev then alleged that the Kremlin had actually spent nearly $10 billion on funding the group, likely referring to the total sum of all federal contracts with Wagner-related companies.  

The Guardian reported on July 1 that Putin's claims about the funding of Wagner could however make it easier to try the Russian dictator for war crimes.

On July 20, the U.K. announced a new wave of sanctions against 13 individuals and businesses connected to Wagner's activities in Mali, Central African Republic (CAR), and Sudan.

Prigozhin and several key commanders had already been sanctioned by the U.K. for their participation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wagner Group claims it’s halting recruitment ‘indefinitely’
The Wagner Group claimed on July 30 that it had “indefinitely” suspended recruitment of new members as it possesses sufficiently “large personnel reserves.”

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