The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced Thursday that mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group have begun training Belarusian special forces at a military training ground just a few miles from the border with NATO member Poland.
Wagner Party leader Evgeny Prigozhin welcomed the fighters to Belarus on Wednesday, ordering them not to take part in the Ukrainian war any longer for the time being, but to gather strength for Africa while training the Belarusian army. A video was shown.
The Belarusian Ministry of Defense announced that “the Belarusian Armed Forces are continuing joint training with combatants of the Wagner PMC (Private Military Company)”.
“During the week, Special Operations Forces will engage in combat training missions with company representatives at the Brest Military Training Range.”
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Its range lies just 5 kilometers (3 miles) east of the Polish border.
Minsk posted a photo of a masked Wagner instructor training Belarusian soldiers in what appears to be an armored vehicle and a drone control device, wearing face coverings according to mercenary group rules.
Poland, a former Warsaw Pact member and a full member of the U.S.-led military alliance since 1999, said earlier this month amid growing concerns that Wagner fighter jets in Belarus could lead to increased tensions. He began moving more than 1,000 troops to the east of the country. on that border.
Poland’s defense ministry said on Thursday that the country’s borders were safe and ready for “various scenarios depending on how the situation evolves”.
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Asked about Poland’s move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “Of course it is a cause for concern. Polish aggression is real.
“Such a hostile attitude towards Belarus and the Russian Federation deserves further attention (from our side).”
The failed June 23rd and 24th Wagner uprisings have been interpreted by the West as a challenge to the rule of President Vladimir Putin, demonstrating the weakness of the 70-year-old Kremlin chief and the tensions of the Ukraine war against the Russian state. ing.
Russia rejects that interpretation, arguing that the Russian people are rallying around Putin and the military.
On June 24, an agreement was reached under which the mercenaries would be relocated to Belarus in exchange for the dropping of the charges against them. Putin said the fighters could either leave for Belarus, fall under the command of the defense ministry or return to their families.
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Wagner lost 22,000 men in the Ukraine war, 40,000 wounded and up to 10,000 fighters left in Belarus, according to a senior commander’s post reposted on Wagner’s Telegram channel. Become.
For months, Reuters was unable to confirm what appeared to be the most detailed breakdown of Wagner’s figures. But if it is accurate, it provides insight into the extent of the losses both sides have suffered in the Ukraine war, and the continued strength of one of the world’s most battle-hardened mercenary units. be done.
Wagner’s senior commander, nicknamed “Marx,” said in the post that a total of 78,000 Wagner personnel would participate in a “business trip to Ukraine,” of which 49,000 He said he was a prisoner of war.
Mr. Wagner helped Russia annex Crimea in 2014, fought Islamic State militants in Syria, conducted operations in the Central African Republic and Mali, and earlier this year captured the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to Russia, threatening both sides. inflicted great damage on
“Up to 10,000 fighters have or will go to Belarus,” he said. “About 15,000 people went on vacation.”
The post contradicted a statement by a Russian lawmaker who said as many as 33,000 Wagner fighters were on contract with the Ministry of Defense.
“If everyone who died or went on holiday signed up, I think it would be possible,” Marx said.