On Thursday, Belarus said Wagner mercenaries had started to train Belarusian special forces at a military range just a few miles from the Polish border.
Russia has in recent weeks begun stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus for the first time. The Kremlin said Putin would meet Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, with whom he speaks regularly, in Russia on Sunday.German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Friday that Germany and NATO were prepared to support Poland in defending the military alliance’s eastern flank.Putin said there were press reports of plans for a Polish-Lithuanian unit to be used for operations in western Ukraine – parts of which in the past belonged to Poland – and ultimately to occupy territory there.
“It is well known that they also dream of the Belarusian lands,” he said, also without providing any evidence.On Wednesday, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was shown in a video welcoming his fighters to Belarus, telling them they would take no further part for now in the war in Ukraine but ordering them to gather strength for Wagner’s operations in Africa while they trained the Belarusian army.
Prigozhin says Wagner, which led the conquest of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, is Russia’s most effective fighting force. But his frequent clashes with the Moscow defence establishment led him to stage an armed mutiny four weeks ago.The insurrection ended with an agreement that Wagner fighters – many recruited from prison – could move to Belarus if they wished.
Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool