Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the situation is “starting to get tense with the Wagner group because they want to march on Warsaw,” as he struggles to restrain the mercenaries from attacking Poland.
“Maybe I shouldn't say it, but I will. The Wagner group has started to stress us: ‘We want to go to the West. Let us go.’ I said, why do you want to go to the West? ‘Well, to go on a tour to Warsaw, to Rzeszow’,” Lukashenko said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to state news agency TASS.
“I keep them in the center, as agreed, Belarus does not want to move them there, because their mood is bad. And, to their credit, they know what's going on around the Union State. Well, it's just a touch,” Lukashenko said.
Washington-based think tank Institute of Study of War (ISW) wrote in an assessment: “Lukashenko told Putin that the Wagner Group in Belarus will remain in central Belarus likely subtly reminding Putin of the threat the Wagner military organization still poses to him and underlining Lukashenko’s control over that power.”
It added: “Lukashenko’s statements were likely meant to make Putin reflect on the uncomfortable (for Putin) fact that Wagner’s new garrison in Belarus puts its forces half as far from Moscow as Wagner’s previous base in southern Russia.”
Wagner fighters have been training Belarusian special forces on the border with Poland.
The Polish defense minister had decided over the weekend to move Polish military units to the eastern area of the country due to the Wagner mercenary group's presence in Belarus and its joint exercises with Belarusian soldiers, state-run news agency PAP reported.
“Training or joint exercises of the Belarusian army and the Wagner Group are undoubtedly a provocation,” said Zbigniew Hoffmann, the secretary of the Government National Security Committee.
“The committee analysed possible threats, such as, for instance, the deployment of Wagner Group units. Therefore, the defence minister and the committee chairman, Mariusz Blaszczak, decided to move our military formations from the west to the east of Poland,” Hoffmann said.
He added: “Apart from training, the aim of these troops is to deter a potential aggressor.”