Thousands of Wagner Troops Are in Belarus: Monitor

Defense ministry says mercenaries are training with its forces
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2023 6:10 PM CDT
Thousands of Wagner Troops Are in Belarus: Monitor
In this photo released by Belarus' Defense Ministry on Thursday, soldiers of the Special Operations Forces attend maneuvers with Wagner mercenary fighters near Brest, Belarus.   (Belarus' Defense Ministry via AP)

Thousands of Russia-linked Wagner group mercenaries have arrived in Belarus since the group's short-lived rebellion, a military monitoring group said Monday. Between 3,450 and 3,650 soldiers have traveled to a camp close to Asipovichy, a town 140 miles north of the Ukrainian border, according to Belaruski Hajun, an activist group that tracks troop movements within the country, the AP reports. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko welcomed Wagner forces into the country after brokering a deal between the Kremlin and mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin last month, ending the group's failed revolt against Russian military leaders.

The Wagner chief called the mutiny a "march of justice" to oust top military leaders. The mercenaries faced little resistance and downed at least six military helicopters and a command post aircraft, killing a number of Russian troops. The revolt posed the most serious threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin of his 23-year rule. Satellite images show that about 700 vehicles and construction equipment have also arrived in Wagner convoys to Belarus, Belaruski Hajun said. Prigozhin registered a "real estate management company" in Belarus last week under the name Concord Management and Consulting in Belarus. Documents analyzed by independent Belarusian media outlet reform by showed that the company's registered address was in the same village as the Wagner mercenary camp.

Also Monday, local officials said Monday that the mercenaries were continuing to work with Belarusian troops, including at training grounds close to the Polish border. "Wagner fighters who have really been in the heat of combat are passing on valuable information and experience to our servicemen," the Belarusian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Meeting with Putin on Sunday, Lukashenko said Wagner troops were "stressing (him) out" by calling for an excursion into Poland. The remarks have largely been dismissed by analysts, with the American Institute for the Study of War saying that Wagner troops there could not threaten Ukraine and Poland, per the AP.

(More Belarus stories.)

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