Belarus’ Lukashenko says demands for Wagner to withdraw ‘groundless and stupid’

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Aug 31 (Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that demands for the withdrawal of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group from Belarus were “groundless and stupid”, Belarusian state news agency BELTA reported on Thursday.

Wagner, whose leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed in a plane crash in Russia last week, relocated some of its fighters to Belarus under a deal brokered by Lukashenko after the mercenary army launched a failed mutiny aimed at ousting Prigozhin’s rivals from the Russian Defence Ministry in June.

Poland and the Baltic states  have warned they will close their borders with Belarus entirely if a “critical incident” involving Wagner mercenaries takes place, amid rising tensions on NATO’s eastern flank.

EU and NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, which share a border with Belarus, have been increasingly concerned about border security since hundreds of Russian battle-hardened Wagner mercenaries arrived in Belarus at the invitation of President Alexander Lukashenko.

The countries have also seen an increase in the number of mainly Middle Eastern and African migrants trying to cross the border in recent months and accuse Belarus of facilitating them, a claim Minsk rejects.

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