Chinese defence boss visits Belarus as fears of Wagner troops threat grows

Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu arrives in Belarus

A top Chinese official has landed in Russia-aligned Belarus for talks with the nation’s military as Wagner Group mercenaries continue to stoke tension in the region.

Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu and his delegation were greeted by his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin on Wednesday morning (August 16) in Minsk.

The official and his team were given a military welcome, footage published by Belarusian state media has shown, with dozens of rifle-wielding local officers standing guard as they arrived.

They were transported to Belarus early this morning on a regular Russian Aeroflot flight, having met with Putin’s key aide Sergei Shoigu on the sidelines of the Moscow Conference on International Security on Tuesday.

It comes as Poland announced its intention to deploy roughly 10,000 troops along its border with Belarus to defend against what a high-ranking official described as an “unpredictable foe”, referring to the thousands of Wagner Group mercenaries stationed in the Russian vassal state.

READ MORE Poland beefing up Belarus border defences with 10k troops over Wagner fears[REVEAL ]

The Belarusian defence ministry posted a video showing Li’s arrival just after 9.30am on Wednesday.

A press statement alongside the video read: “An official visit to the Republic of Belarus of a member of the Central Military Council, the State Council, the Minister of Defense of the People’s Republic of China Colonel-General Li Shangfu has begun.”

They earlier noted that Li will hold meetings and negotiations with “Belarusian state and military leaders, and visit Belarusian military units”.

He will also conduct an inspection of the assembly shops of the enterprises of the military-industrial complex.

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As Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine continues, the threat of Beijing playing an increasing role on Moscow’s side is a growing concern.

The Chinese official visit coincides with the transfer of thousands of Wagner Group mercenaries to Belarus.

Between 4,000 and 4,500 Wagner troops currently reside in Belarus, according to the Hajun Project, a native outlet that tracks military movements within the country, having moved from southwestern Russia following their aborted mutinous “March on Moscow”.

Since their arrival, they have been training units of the Belarusian Armed Forces. Rumours over the past fortnight that they were transferring back to Russia, as well as to African countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), appear to have been inaccurate.

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Poland has expressed concern over the presence of the thousands of Russian Wagner mercenaries who recently took part in training near the border.

More than half of Poles questioned recently by the IBRIS survey centre said they considered the Russian mercenaries in Belarus as a threat.

Two Belarusian military helicopters flew at low altitude over the Polish village of Bialowieza, near the border, for a few minutes last week before returning to Belarus, an action that Poland said was also a provocation.

Two Russian men were arrested last week in Poland accused of having spread the Wagner group’s ideology.

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