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The U.K. government has officially declared the Wagner Group a terrorist organization, which gives the group the same status as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have.
Going forward, belonging to, actively supporting, engaging with, or carrying the logo of the Wagner Group in public is a criminal offense in the U.K. Offenders could face a maximum of 14 years in prison or a fine at or under 5,000 pounds ($6,200).
Under the U.K. legislation, the Home Secretary may deem a group a terrorist organization if it commits or takes part in acts of terrorism, prepares terrorist acts, promotes or encourages terrorism, or is involved in terrorism in other ways. The Wagner Group is now the 79th organization on the list.
Designating the Russian mercenary group a terrorist organization comes after calls from President Volodymyr Zelensky to treat the group as terrorists and "careful consideration of the nature and scale of the organization's activities," according to the U.K. home office.
The U.K. included the group and its former leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in a wave of sanctions against Russia after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Prigozhin was reportedly killed in an Aug. 23 private jet crash.
On July 30, the Times reported that the U.K. government's plan to declare the Wagner Group a terrorist organization had been impacted by the fallout from Prigozhin's brief armed rebellion against the Russian leadership.
Following the uprising, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the private military company had been fully financed by the state, with the U.K. then facing the issue that blacklisting Wagner would amount to blacklisting an official arm of the Russian government.
This move would "involve a range of diplomatic and legal complications," reported the Times, citing government sources. However, senior ministers were still determined to find a way to continue this process, the article 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, including Ukraine. 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.