May 21, 2024

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“You Can’t Find Them Here”: Uncertainty About Wagner in Belarus

“You Can’t Find Them Here”: Uncertainty About Wagner in Belarus

The smell of felled wood hangs around a camp recently built in Tsel, Belarus, to house fighters from the private Wagner militia after their aborted rebellion in Russia and an agreement with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to welcome them.

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But President Lukashenko assured on Thursday that the sulfur boss of the paramilitary group Wagner, Evguéni Prigojine, was in Russia and “not on the territory of Belarus”. According to him, Wagner’s fighters are “in their permanent camps” in Ukraine, but not in Belarus, “for the time being”.

However, on June 24, Mr. Wagner put an end to the rebellion. Evguéni Prigojine was in exile in Russia’s ally Belarus, according to a deal brokered by Lukashenko with the Kremlin.

When asked, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded for his part that “Moscow does not follow the movements” of Wagner’s boss.

AFP

“If you’re looking for them, you won’t find them here,” said Leonid Kaczynski, a Belarusian Defense Ministry official, as he received journalists at a recently built camp in Tsel, in the central Asipovichi commune in the Mogilev region.

Leonid Kaczynski showed off the new camp to a group of foreign journalists invited to take part in a rare “tour de table” interview with President Lukashenko.

Around him, 300 tents that could have accommodated about 5,000 people were empty. In one, you can see some guards resting.

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Mr. Kaczynski said.

“As the camp is ready, it can be delivered,” only the ministry official agreed with Wagner.

The media released satellite photos of the camp under construction immediately after the uprising, suggesting the arrival of Wagner fighters as part of a deal negotiated by the Belarusian president.

Mr Lukashenko announced that Yevgeny Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus on 27 June.

But on Thursday, he admitted that the issue of Wagner’s “transfer” to Belarus was “not resolved.”

AFP

After his 24-hour revolt that shook the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin vowed that he did not want to seize power, but to secure Wagner’s removal by Russian civil servants who accused him of incompetence.

However, his men, mercenaries funded by Russian authorities, have been accused of committing atrocities in several countries, including Ukraine, the Central African Republic and Syria.

“I’m scared, I want to live in peace and see my children grow up, that’s all I can say,” a Belarusian woman said on condition of anonymity near the camp of Wagner’s fighters.

However, other residents say there is nothing to fear. “It doesn’t bother me. If it has to be done, it has to be done,” said Yelena Vinglinskaya, 45, who works at a kindergarten.

This is also the opinion of a Belarusian Defense Ministry official. “I don’t know why we would have problems with the Wagner group,” Leonid Kaczynski told foreign journalists.

“We are not going to compete with anyone. “We will have their unique combat experience,” he said, adding, “Wagner and his commanders will have the final say on where they will settle.”

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