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1 Aug, 2023 15:50

Belarus hits back at Polish Wagner claims

Minsk has dismissed Warsaw’s concerns about Wagner fighters supposedly moving towards the Polish border as “madness”
Belarus hits back at Polish Wagner claims

The concerns of Polish officials about the alleged movements of the Wagner Group near the nation’s border are detached from reality, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a public meeting on Tuesday. Neither Minsk nor the Russian private military company (PMC) have any plans to attack Poland, he added.

Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki raised the alarm over Wagner fighters supposedly being deployed to the Belarusian side of the Polish border.

“I’ve heard Poland has recently gone mad over a unit of as many as 100 people moving somewhere here,” the president said while visiting a small Belarusian town near the Polish border.

“No 100-strong Wagner PMC units have been deployed anywhere here,” he said, adding that the Russian fighters might have been traveling to train Belarusian military brigades stationed in the western cities of Brest and Grodno.

Lukashenko also described his previous remarks about the Wagner Group wanting to “visit” Poland as a joke. During a meeting with Putin two weeks ago, the Belarusian leader claimed that the PMC fighters wanted to “go on tour to Poland” to visit Warsaw and Rzeszow, which they believed was a hub for providing Ukrainian troops with military hardware.

Lukashenko said he was merely pointing out that Poland actively supplied weaponry to the Ukrainian military which killed thousands of Wagner fighters in the battle for the city of Artyomovsk (known as Bakhmut in Ukraine). Those who survived the battle would never forgive Warsaw for this, he added.

The Wagner fighters “are used to carrying out orders” and “do not seek to go anywhere,” the president said.

Regarding Minsk’s own plans, Lukashenko dismissed Polish concerns about the Suwalki Gap, a region separating the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad from Belarus. Last week, Warsaw announced that it was forming a new military unit to protect the area due to concerns about a potential “hybrid attack” by the Wagner group.

“The Suwalki Gap is not in Belarus. We are not moving either along it or towards it. We would not need it for a thousand of years,” Lukashenko said.

The Wagner group arrived in Belarus in early July as part of a deal with the Kremlin mediated by Minsk, which ended a mutiny staged by the company’s founder, Evgeny Prigozhin. Later, the Belarusian Defense Ministry confirmed that Wagner members were training Belarusian troops.

Poland declared the presence of the Wagner Group in Belarus to be a threat to national security almost immediately after they arrived there. Since then, Polish officials have repeatedly expressed concerns, saying they are taking the “threat” seriously and closely monitoring it.