The mercenary group has been designated a terror organization after Yevgeny Prigozhin died, but experts say it is unlikely to make a big difference.
The UK has designated the Wagner mercenary group a terrorist organisation 2 weeks after the death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, but many experts say it’s unlikely to make much of a difference.
The new designation comes in the wake of war crime allegations against the group in Ukraine, Syria and across much of Africa.
The designation announced by UK Home Minister Suella Braverman will take effect on the 13th of September – assuming expected approval by Parliament – and make it illegal to join or promote the group, display its symbols, or materially support the organisation.
In a statement on Wednesday, the UK Home Office said the designation will make it “illegal to be a member or support Wagner Group” and the offence will be punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
It’s unlikely to have much of an effect on current operations after Wagner was largely dismantled in both Russia and across Africa in the wake of a mutiny on the 23rd of June. This saw Wagner’s well equipped fighters drive on Moscow in a dispute between the group’s founder, the late Prigozhin, and senior Russian defence officials over support for Wagner’s campaign to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine with an army of released convicts.
Prigozhin and Dimitri Utkin, a former Russian special forces officer whose call sign “Wagner,” and neo-nazi tattoos helped define the company, died along with eight other Wagner employees on the 23rd of August, when a private plane owned by the company unexpectedly exploded just outside of Moscow.
“It will make it much easier to arrest and prosecute former Wagner fighters if they turn up in the West,” said a European law enforcement official about the UK’s decision. “It could lead to seizing assets in some parts of the EU that were involved in fundraising and money laundering, but the bulk of Wagner’s power and assets died with Prigozhin. The Ukraine operations are over for them and in Africa, Putin has sent new people to take over the operations under new management and names.”
Kremlin officials tended to agree.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters that Wagner did not legally exist. “There’s nothing to comment on,” he said.
Wagner first came to prominence in Syria and Africa as mercenaries drawn from former Russian military units to provide muscle and training for a variety of dictators, often in exchange for significant oil, gas and gold concessions. The group became a symbol of deniable Russian power that allowed the Kremlin to influence events far from its borders, while making billions from both Russian government contracts and agreements with countries including Mali, Central African Republic, Sudan and Libya.
Source: Vice News