The UK’s proscription of the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization, that came into effect on Sept. 16 of this year was a step in the right direction, but as the Russian state continues its onslaughts in Ukraine and more voices point to its links to the Hamas attack on Israel, why is the UK not designating Russia a terrorist state?
The proscription of Wagner as a terrorist organization was a painstaking process that took over a year and involved a multitude of evidence submissions and speeches at the Houses of Parliament. And while these speeches identified the terrorist activities of the group, they also pointed to the intrinsic link between the group and the Russian state.
The July 2023 UK Foreign Affairs Committee report on Wagner stated that the “Russian state has sometimes directed, facilitated, and supported its military operations, notably in Libya and Ukraine… Its guiding hand has been the Russian state.”
The same Foreign Affairs Committee report also stated that the Wagner private military company (PMC) “has been primarily state-funded; and that the Russian government facilitated its activities directly”.
While the report remains unaddressed by the government, and considering the proscription of the PMC, may remain so, the lack of designation for the “funders,” “supporters,” “facilitators” and the “guiding hand” of a terrorist group as a terrorist entity borders on criminality.
Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Security and Counter-Terrorism, Admiral Lord West of Spithead addressed in the House of Lord on 11 July saying: “There is no doubt that the Wagner Group is state funded and is a proxy of the Russian Government.”
And although the statement from an opposition party member can be ignored by the government, in a Sept. 6 statement on the proscription the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has herself acknowledged that the Group was a tool of the Kremlin and it’s fate rests in the hands of Putin.
Braverman said: “Wagner is a violent and destructive organization which has acted as a military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas. While Putin’s regime decides what to do with the monster it created, Wagner’s continuing destabilizing activities only continue to serve the Kremlin’s political goals.”
The UK government knows that Wagner is a terrorist organization, it recognizes it as such, but despite the overwhelming evidence of the direct connection between the group and the Kremlin, it’s refusing to take the final step in conceding that those who run, control and fund, and benefit from the activities of terrorists, are themselves terrorists.
The British Government’s inaction suggests two possible justifications.
The first, is the impact of the proscription of Russia on the Russian people, who may not support the Kremlin, and the second – a more sinister and calculated decision based on Conservative historical links to Russian funding and British reliance on Russian money in the UK economy.
If one thing is certain, it is that Russians support the killing of Ukrainians, be it by Wagner or the army. Addressing the foreign Affairs Committee, on Nov. 1, 2022, Russian dissident and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky said: “Today, according to the surveys being conducted by different social survey companies—they are not that independent—about 90 percent of the population support the existence of the Wagner Group”.
Similarly, according to the May 2023 poll by the Levada Centre, as 43 percent of Russians say they are definitely in favor and 76 percent express support for the Russian army’s actions in Ukraine. In no age group did support dip below 61 percent, even among the technologically literate and internet content consuming 18- to 24-year-olds, who are able to penetrate the propaganda wall and access the true stories of Russian atrocities.
The majority of Russians like this war.
The evidence of public support of the Kremlin is there for everyone to see and cannot be misconstrued to justify any restraint on recognizing the state as sponsor and perpetrator of terrorism. Instead, what is clear – the killing of Ukrainians has not stirred enough emotions in the British political elites to part with the benefits of having wealthy Russian neighbors.
But as Israel sadly saw its bloodiest day on Oct. 7, we also discover that Russia may have been behind this terrorist attack.
Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyah, Lebanese Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad’s Ziyad al-Nakhalah have made trips to Moscow since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. As the UN Security Council gathered to condemn Hamas, it was also Russia who derailed the efforts, according to US diplomat Robert Wood.
Shunned by the civilized world, Putin has been courting dictators and terrorists to give an illusion of international clout for domestic TV audiences, and enjoying a long standing warm relationship with Hamas, Russia could not have been anything but ecstatic over the killing of Israelis and the distraction from the Ukraine war, a week after the US Congress passed a continuing resolution with no aid for Ukraine.
The brutal onslaught on civilians in Israel, in Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin, Yagidne, Lyman, Russian support for Hamas – what else is needed for UK politicians to see Russia for what it really is - a terrorist state!
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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