Home Office preparing to proscribe Wagner Group as a terrorist organisation
The Home Office is drawing up plans to formally proscribe Russian mercenaries the Wagner Group as a terrorist organisation, The Telegraph can reveal.
The fighters have played a central role in Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and are currently spearheading attempts to take the eastern town of Bakhmut.
Proscription would mean it becomes a criminal offence not just to belong to Wagner or attend its meetings but encourage support for it or carry its logo in public.
It would mean putting Wagner on the similar legal footing of notorious terror groups such as Al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, and the jihadists Isil.
Such a step could have knock-on implications for the group’s money-raising abilities should any assets or revenue streams run through UK financial institutions.
It is understood discussions about proscription are at an early stage and are not as advanced as the planned proscription of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
That move, which The Telegraph revealed last month, has been delayed after the Foreign Office raised concerns about the impact of the intervention.
A final decision on Wagner proscription has not been taken, but Whitehall insiders predicted the green light will be achieved much quicker than the IRGC given the severity of the situation in Ukraine and the unity on the issue across Whitehall.
Proscription involves building a case, published when the announcement is revealed, for why the major legal step is necessary.
Wagner has played a central role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, with the group currently involved in fierce fighting as it attempts to retake land for Russia in the east of Ukraine.
Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, are the cabinet ministers who handle proscription and will take the lead on building a case, which can include using classified intelligence.
Mr Tugendhat made clear in public his condemnation of Wagner when he was a backbench Tory MP, before being promoted to the cabinet last year.
In March 2022, Mr Tugendhat, then the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, announced an inquiry into Wagner Group and other proxy militaries, stating:: “Private military companies can operate as legal enablers of legitimate activity or in the shadows, blurring the lines between legal and illegal activities.
"Despite the threat their use can pose to peace and democracy worldwide, international law in this area is ambiguous and policing powers are limited.
“Some of these private military companies, such as the Wagner Group, engage in ruthless mercenary activities at the behest of states like Russia, profiting through bloodshed and taking an active role in Ukraine and other countries.”
Foreign office ministers will appear before the committee on Monday to discuss Wagner and its activities.
In public, the Government is expected to continue its stance of not confirming its proscription plans until the final decision is publicly announced.
A Government spokesperson said: “Whilst the government keeps the list of proscribed organisations under review, we do not comment on whether a specific organisation is or is not being considered for proscription.”