Belarus: Wagner will hold military exercises near the border with Poland

by Guy Faulconbridge and Felix Light

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that mercenaries from Russia’s private Wagner militia would help train Belarusian special forces soldiers at a military facility within gun distance of NATO member Poland.

Wagner major Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared in a video on Wednesday welcoming fighters to Belarus, telling them they would no longer take part in fighting in Ukraine and asking them to assemble their forces for Africa while the Belarusian army builds up.

“The Belarusian Armed Forces continue joint training with Wagner PMC (private military company) fighters,” the Belarusian Defense Ministry said.

The ministry also indicated, “During this week, units of special operations forces with representatives of the company will undergo combat training at the military range in Brest.”

Poland earlier this month announced sending 500 law enforcement personnel to its border with Belarus to deal with the large influx of migrants and any potential threat from Wagner’s mercenaries.

The failed rebellion by Wagner’s men was seen as an unprecedented challenge to the power of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin, on its part, confirms that the people are united around their president and his military.

“business travel”

On 24 June an agreement was reached under the auspices of the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, allowing the paramilitaries to seek asylum in Belarus, rejoin under the command of the Russian Defense Ministry, or return to their families.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Wagner has lost 22,000 men, 40,000 wounded, and 10,000 of those will reach Belarus, according to a post by a senior commander shared by Wagner’s Telegram channel.

According to the same publication, a total of 78,000 Wagner men presented as “Ukrainian business trip” including 49,000 prisoners.

In 2014, Wagner helped Russia annex Crimea, capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, fight Islamic State group militants in Syria, operate in the Central African Republic and Mali.

(Reporting by Felix Light in Tbilisi and Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow; French version Zhifan Liu, Editing by Kate Entringer)

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