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Lithuania to reinforce border with Belarus amid threat from Wagner Group

31.07.2023 14:30
The presence of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries near the Lithuanian border represents “a serious threat” and the Lithuanian army will support the border guards if necessary, the country’s president has said. 
Lithuanias President Gitanas Nausda.
Lithuania's President Gitanas Nausėda.https://www.flickr.com/people/165930373@N06, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gitanas Nausėda made the declaration at a news conference on Monday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.  

Lithuania’s president said: “The situation is being monitored and the intelligence operations have been stepped up. There is no reason why Lithuania’s armed forces shouldn’t help the border guard. It will definitely be done.”

Nausėda said the presence of Wagner forces near the Lithuanian border could be used for the purpose of "various provocations," including against Poland and Lithuania, the PAP news agency reported.

On Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that more than 100 Wagner fighters had moved near the Belarusian city of Grodno, close to the Suwałki Corridor area on the Polish-Lithuanian border, which separates the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea from Belarus.

Meanwhile, Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin on Monday said that the private paramilitary company was not recruiting troops at the moment, but was likely to do so in the future, the Reuters news agency reported.

In a voice message on the Grey Zone, a Wagner-affiliated channel on the social messaging app Telegram, Prigozhin said that the private paramilitary company was defining its "new tasks,” which “will be carried out in the name of the greatness of Russia.” 

He added, as quoted by Reuters: “As soon as the Motherland needs to create a new group that will be able to protect the interests of our country, we will certainly start recruiting."

Prigozhin led a brief revolt against Russia’s defence establishment in late June, eventually signing a deal with the Kremlin, brokered by Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko “to avoid bloodshed,” under which Prigozhin himself and some of the Wagner troops were to move to Belarus.   

On Sunday, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said that since mid-July, “at least several thousand Wagner troops have likely established themselves at a military camp at Tsel, in central Belarus.”

On Saturday, Ukraine’s border guard agency estimated that the Wagner forces currently stationed in Belarus could number more than 5,000, the PAP news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Prigozhin attended a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin five days after the mutiny and was photographed last week in St. Petersburg, where Putin was hosting African leaders, Reuters reported.

Also last week, the Wagner leader said that his paramilitary company, which had played a major role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was ready to further increase its presence in Africa.

The Wagner Group is supporting the governments of Mali and Central African Republic, and has been accused of committing various atrocities and sanctioned as a criminal organisation by the United States, Reuters reported.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.

Monday is day 523 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, polskieradio.pl, Reuters