Wagner forces train Belarusian army
Russian ally Belarus has launched alarming military drills right on NATO’s doorstep after thousands of Wagner Group thugs poured into the territory.
Belarus warned it will “train troops in controlling units during combat” in a major military exercise that is currently underway.
Its defense ministry said the drills are based on experiences from Russia’s “special military operation” – the term Moscow uses to describe its illegal invasion of Ukraine.
That is why President Lukashenko, a key ally of Vladimir Putin, is thought to have launched the alarming drills under the Kremlin’s orders.
While no evidence of Wagner Group’s involvement in the drills at Gozhsky training ground has emerged, it comes after thousands of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenaries piled up across an area bordering Poland and Lithuania.
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Now, the two NATO nations have ramped up security at their borders amid fears of provocation from Russia and Belarus.
Poland said it has experienced an increase in attempts to illegally cross the border from Belarus as it moved to station 1,000 troops on the boundary this week.
Meanwhile, two Belarusian helicopters were spotted briefly flying at low altitude into Polish airspace in a major escalation earlier this month. Belarusian authorities denied their helicopters entered Poland.
The war games have been taking place in the Grodno region of Belarus, near the so-called Suwalki Gap — a sparsely populated stretch of land running 96 kilometers (60 miles) along the Polish-Lithuanian border.
It links the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with the rest of the NATO alliance and separates Belarus from Kaliningrad, a heavily militarized Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that has no land connection to Russia.
Reservist Colonel General Andrey Kartapolov, an MP and loyalist chairman of the Russian parliament defence committee, told state TV last month that Russia “need this Suwalki Corridor very much…”.
He said: “A strike force [based in Wagner forces in Belarus] is ready to take this corridor in a matter of hours.”
The territory has been labelled Nato’s “Achilles heel” as it would cut off the Baltics from other NATO-allied lands if interfered with.
Meanwhile, Belarus’ military has said it is actively using Russian mercenaries to train its troops.
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According to Belaruski Hajun, an activist group that tracks troop movements in Belarus, Wagner Group thugs have been arriving in small groups on a daily basis.
According to Grey Zone, a Wagner-linked blog on the messaging app Telegram, around 7,000 Wagner fighters are at a camp close to Asipovichy, a town 230 kilometers (140 miles) north of the Ukrainian border.
However, the claim could not be independently verified.
This comes after Wagner Group’s short-lived rebellion against Moscow in July, instigated by founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin, who was exiled to Belarus as a result, pledged to help protect the country from a potential incursion and to bolster its military.
Andrii Ryzhenko, a former military officer working for Kyiv-based think tank the Centre for Defence Strategies, has warned Wagner Group mercenaries based in Belarus are likely to be plotting deadly cross-border sabotage attacks on Ukraine.
Mr Ryzhenko, a Retired Captain 1st Rank and a former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian Navy told Express.co.uk: “The biggest risk from the Wagner Group is conducting sabotage and reconnaissance operations from the territory of Belarus.
“I believe this is possible if they find a common language there with the puppet authority of Lukashenko.”
Mr Ryzhenko continued: “I am not aware of the situation on the Belarusian territory, but on the northern side, facing Russia, there have been incidents where sabotage groups infiltrate and create havoc in these border areas.
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