Shaheen Joins Legislation to Designate Wagner Group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

February 16, 2023

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in reintroducing the Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries (HARM) Act, bipartisan legislation that would require the Secretary of State to designate the Russian-based Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). 

The Wagner Group is a paramilitary organization that employs thousands of mercenaries. It has been widely condemned for its work as a private military for Russian President Vladimir Putin, conducting terrorist operations in Ukraine, Mali, Sudan and the Central African Republic that have resulted in the massacre of civilians since 2014. The Wagner Group has murdered and threatened journalists, kidnapped children, deployed nerve agents against civilians, committed acts of torture and engaged in rape and sex trafficking of women and children. Wagner has also taken weapons deliveries from North Korea, a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism. 

“Vladimir Putin is a murderous dictator who relies on barbaric mercenaries like the Wagner Group to do his bidding. We know Wagner has committed mass atrocities in Ukraine and around the world, including launching campaigns of terror in West Africa and beyond. This continued aggression by Wagner and the Kremlin threatens the security of democracies worldwide, including the United States, and I am committed to ensuring the Kremlin and its mercenary arms are held accountable. I’m glad to join this bipartisan group of lawmakers on legislation that would require the U.S. government to designate the Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization to call these thugs what they are and ensure we have the mechanisms in place to hold them responsible,” said Senator Shaheen

The Senators’ legislation would require the Secretary of State to designate the Wagner Group as a FTO under section 219(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act upon enactment. The proposal also includes provisions that would apply the FTO designation to any affiliated or successor entity to the Wagner Group. The legislation follows action by the European Parliament that declared Russia a state sponsor of terrorism and specifically called out the Wagner Group for its atrocities. 

In addition to Senators Shaheen, Wicker and Cardin, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Thom Tillis, (R-NC) Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also cosponsored the legislation.  

Click here for the full bill text.  

Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and its war crimes against the Ukrainian people. She is a cosponsor of a bipartisan resolution that would recognize Russian actions in Ukraine, which include forced deportations to Russia and the purposeful killing of Ukrainian civilians in mass atrocities, as constituting a genocide against the people of Ukraine. Last February, Shaheen introduced a bipartisan resolution with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to condemn the activities of Russian national Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Group. She has long led action in the Senate to hold Vladimir Putin and fellow bad actors responsible for Russia’s aggression against the United States and election interference. She was the first legislator to call for hearings into their meddling in the 2016 elections. Because of her role as a negotiator on Russia sanctions legislation known as “CAATSA” and her successful efforts to ban Kaspersky Lab software from operating on U.S. systems, Shaheen was sanctioned by the Kremlin in 2017