MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the Wagner mercenary group did not exist from a legal point of view, after being asked to comment on a British decision to designate it as a terrorist organisation.
Britain’s interior minister Suella Braverman described Wagner, a private militia formerly led by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin, as “violent and destructive” and said it acted as a “military tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia overseas”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “There’s nothing to comment on. Perhaps one can add only that, legally-speaking, there is no such group.”
Wagner has operated in Syria, Libya and a number of countries across Africa. It recruited thousands of convicts from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine, providing the main assault force for Russia’s assault on the city of Bakhmut.
In June this year, it launched a brief mutiny against the army top brass in Russia, condemned as treason by President Vladimir Putin. On Aug. 23 Prigozhin and his top lieutenants were killed when a private jet he used crashed in so-far unexplained circumstances.
Remnants of Wagner’s Russian fighting force are now based in Belarus. It is unclear what will become of the security services it provides to several African countries, including Mali and the Central African Republic.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Andrew Osborn)