Ukraine's neighbor raises alarm over Wagner
The Wagner private military company is preparing a “hybrid attack” on Polish territory from Belarus, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has claimed.
“According to our information, more than a hundred Wagner group mercenaries have moved out towards the Suwalki Gap near Grodno in Belarus,” Morawiecki said during a press conference on Saturday.
The Suwalki Gap is an area immediately southwest of the border between Lithuania and Poland, which separates Belarus from the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.
The alleged move by the PMC is “undoubtedly a step towards an upcoming hybrid attack on Polish territory,” the prime minister claimed.
He suggested that the Wagner fighters could pose as Belarusian border guards and help illegal immigrants enter Poland, in an effort to destabilize the country.
According to Morawiecki, members of the PMC could also try to infiltrate Polish territory themselves by pretending to be illegal immigrants, which “creates additional risks.”
Morawiecki noted that Warsaw has been dealing with “attacks” on its border by illegal immigrants for the past two years, with 16 such crossing attempts this year alone. He claimed they were instigated by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko.
At the height of the migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border in 2021, Moscow denied Warsaw’s accusations that it has been pulling strings in Belarus. “Russia has nothing to do with what is happening,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said at the time.
Several thousand Wagner members were sent to Belarus in late June as part of an agreement with the Russian government, mediated by Minsk, which put an end to a mutiny led by the PMC’s chief, Evgeny Prigozhin.
Lukashenko said they would work as instructors for the Belarusian military, sharing experience obtained during the conflict in Ukraine. Wagner had been instrumental in the Russian capture of the strategic city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut) from Ukrainian forces in May. The PMC has also operated in Syria and Africa.
However, on Sunday, the Belarusian president told Putin that the Wagner fighters were keen to “go on tour to Warsaw” to settle a score with those they believe have been providing Ukrainian troops with military hardware.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced on Friday that in response to the arrival of Wagner in Belarus, Warsaw will boost the size of its military from 172,000 to 300,000 and increase defense spending to 4% of GDP.