Britain is set to formally blacklist Russia’s mercenary force Wagner group as a terrorist organization to increase pressure on Russia, The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Wagner mercenaries have spearheaded Russia’s months-long assault on Bakhmut in the industrial Donbas region.
After two months of building a legal case, proscription or a formal blacklisting of the group was “imminent” and likely to be enacted within weeks, the newspaper reported citing a government source.
This would make it a criminal offence to belong to Wagner, attend its meetings, encourage support for it or carry its logo in public, The Times said.
It would also impose financial sanctions on the group and there would be implications for Wagner’s ability to raise money if any funds went through British financial institutions, the newspaper added.
Britain’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Bakhmut has been under Russian attack for more than nine months, with Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries leading repeated attempts to advance on what was once a city of 70,000.
The group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a social media message on Monday that his troops were beginning to receive ammunition needed to press their advance. Troops had advanced a maximum of 130 metres (400 feet) amid fierce fighting, Prigozhin said.