White House opposes designating Wagner PMC a terrorist organization, media report says

14 March, 12:37 AM
PMC Wagner (Photo:REUTERS/Igor Russak)

PMC Wagner (Photo:REUTERS/Igor Russak)

The U.S. Congress and the White House have divergent points of view as to whether Russian private military company Wagner Group should be designated as a terrorist organization, U.S. news outlet The Hill reported on March 12.

Washington has already declared Wagner to be an international criminal organization, but U.S. lawmakers from both parties want to move further and classify the mercenary company as terrorist organization.

Seven senators have drafted a bill that would add Wagner Group to the U.S. State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO), which entails significantly tougher sanctions.

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“The FTO designation would increase U.S. resources to target and disrupt Wagner’s activities, serve as a strong deterrent against people or governments doing business with the group and open new pathways for legal action,” the report reads.

An “informed source” told The Hill that the White House is concerned the move would complicate U.S. relations with a number of African countries where Wagner maintains significant presence and influence.

The Wagner Group currently operates in Sudan, Libya, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Chad.

“(The State Department) is concerned that if suddenly the FTO designation lands on Wagner, that those governments, where there’s various officials that deal with them (Wagner), that they would all, immediately be blocked from travel to the United States and have their assets seized for coming into contact with the FTO,” the source said.

At the same time, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly open to label Wagner fighters in Ukraine as terrorists, stopping short of doing the same for the PMC’s African divisions.

Those pushing for Wagner to be designated as FTO argue is paves the way towards recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism – something the White House remains reluctant to do, fearing unforeseen repercussions in foreign relations and trade.

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