Labor is calling on ministers to outlaw a group of Russian mercenaries involved in Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a terrorist organisation.
Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper have jointly demanded that the UK government formally label the Wagner Group a terrorist group after accusing it of committing “appalling atrocities.” “.
Labor said the move would make it a criminal offense to belong to the private military company, attend its meetings, encourage support or wear its logo in public.
The Wagner Group, led by warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been fighting bloody battles alongside the Russian president’s armed forces in areas of eastern Ukraine.
The mercenaries, made up of contractors and conscripted convicts, have fought to take the town of Soledar, a salt mining town, and are currently engaged in a heavy-loss fight for the town of Bakhmut, also in the Donetsk region.
Labor wants ministers to follow the US lead after Washington last month designated Wagner as a “major transnational criminal organisation”.
In a joint statement, Lammy and Cooper said: “The Wagner Group is responsible for horrific atrocities in Ukraine and around the world.
“No one in the UK should be allowed to belong to, support or promote the Wagner Group.”
The push to have Wagner banned comes after a government department reportedly helped his millionaire owner, Mr Prigozhin, circumvent UK sanctions to take a British journalist to court.
The Treasury is currently investigating how the department reportedly issued licenses to allow lawyers to help Prigozhin take legal action against a Bellingcat journalist in the UK in 2021 while the Russian oligarch was subject to sanctions.
Last month, Labor pushed for the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be outlawed as a terror group following the execution of Alireza Akbari, a dual British-Iranian national.
Since then, a report in the Telegraph has suggested that the United States is keen that Britain not put such a label on Iran’s special branch of the military to serve as a diplomatic go-between between the White House and Tehran.
Mr. Lammy and Ms. Cooper continued: “One year after Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, we must hold those responsible for supporting his barbaric agenda to account.
“The government should now outlaw the Wagner Group as terrorists, and finally take action against the IRGC.”
Prigozhin, a millionaire with close ties to Putin, has been vocal in criticizing the Kremlin’s treatment of his recruiting company.
The group has been involved in operations in Syria, across Africa, and was reportedly involved in a plot to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the early months of the conflict.
Sometimes dubbed “Putin’s chef,” Prigozhin has been claiming for weeks that the Russian military does not provide his group with enough ammunition.
It comes after Wagner’s drive to seize Bakhmut, a key target city for Moscow in the partially occupied Donetsk region, stalled and turned into a grueling battle.
In an emotional audio statement released through his spokesman this week, Prigozhin said the lack of support “can be likened to high treason at the very moment Wagner is fighting for Bakhmut, losing hundreds of his fighters every day.”
It is the latest sign of tensions between Wagner, who has an unclear legal status as Russian law prohibits collaboration with private military companies, and the Kremlin military.
The Labor demands come a week after leader Sir Keir Starmer visited kyiv and met with Zelensky.
He promised that if there were to be a change of government after the next election, UK support for Ukraine in its fight against the Kremlin would remain strong under his rule.
A UK government spokesperson said: “The UK already has considerable powers to sanction Russian entities, which we have used with our allies to significant effect, including the March 2022 designation of the Wagner Group.
“The UK has sanctioned more than 1,500 people since the invasion, including more than 120 oligarchs with an estimated global net worth of more than £140bn, in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Home office officials said they would not comment on the organizations being considered to be banned.