LONDON (AP) — The U.K. announced Wednesday it will declare Russia’s Wagner mercenary group a banned terrorist organization, saying it remains a threat to global security even after the death of leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The government said an order will be introduced in Parliament to proscribe the group under the Terrorism Act. The designation, once approved by lawmakers, will bar membership in or support for Wagner, which has played a major fighting role during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It also has operated in Syria and several African nations.
The move, expected to take effect within days, puts Wagner in the same category as the Islamic State group, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Northern Ireland paramilitaries.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Wagner “has been involved in looting, torture and barbarous murders. Its operations in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa are a threat to global security.”
“They are terrorists, plain and simple – and this proscription order makes that clear in U.K. law,” she said.
The ban will allow U.K. authorities to seize the organization’s assets, though that power is largely symbolic as Wagner is not known to operate in Britain.
The move follows a recommendation by Parliament’s influential Foreign Affairs Committee in July that Wagner be outlawed. The committee said British authorities had “underplayed and underestimated” the threat posed by the mercenary group.
The committee said Wagner’s future was uncertain after Prigozhin’s short-lived armed mutiny against Russia’s top military leaders in June. The lawmakers said Britain should take advantage of the confused situation to “disrupt” Wagner.
Two months after the June mutiny, Prigozhin was reported killed in an Aug. 23 plane crash. A preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment concluded the plane was downed by an intentional explosion. The government of Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied involvement.
Several other allies of Ukraine have sanctioned Wagner’s leaders, and earlier this year, the Lithuanian and Estonian legislatures passed resolutions declaring it a terrorist organization. The United States has designated the Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization.