June 26 – July 2, 2023
Security issues

Wagner PMC relocates to Belarus

The situation got worse
Wagner PMC relocates to Belarus
Иллюстрационное фото. Автор: RG72. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

No sooner had the Wagner PMC rebellion ended in Russia than the Belarusian authorities began to equip a military camp for them in the Mahiliou region so that they could relocate to Belarus in accordance with the deal reached between Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Kremlin with the orchestrated mediation of the Belarusian regime. Belarusian society and elites are concerned about this decision, despite Lukashenka’s reassurances. The redeployment of Wagner PMC to Belarus increases the Russian military presence, and it is possible that the “mutiny” itself was intended to divert attention from the delivery of the first batch of Russian nuclear warheads to Belarus.

Less than a week after the start of the “rebellion” and a few days after its end, a camp for Wagnerites emerged at former military base No. 61732 in the village of Cel, Asipovichy district. Satellite images reveal at least 303 tents appearing after June 24th.

The tents are identical to those seen in satellite images of other Russian military training grounds, for example, at Abuz-Liasnouski polygon near Baranavichy. Each tent can accommodate from 20 to 50 people, so 300 of them might house up to 15 thousand soldiers. However, other estimates suggest space for 8940 fighters, since not all tents are residential.

Rumours suggest there will be several similar camps on Belarusian territory. If these are confirmed, it may signal the transfer of almost all Wagner PMC units from Ukraine, amounting to 25-35 thousand fighters.

Lukashenka was forced to justify himself several times, reassuring Belarusians that the presence of Wagner PMC troops in Belarus is a blessing. He asserts that this decision is pragmatic, does not carry any social and military-political risks, and is beneficial to Belarus on all sides:

  • PMC Wagner has combat experience in Ukraine, which will be useful to the Belarusian army; Wagnerians can act as instructors.
  • Only professional Wagnerians will arrive in Belarus, since all the “prisoners” mobilised through the Wagner PMC already died at the front.
  • Maintaining PMC Wagner in Belarus will be a Russian expense.
  • Despite the arrest of Wagner activists in Belarus in 2020 for attempting to destabilise the situation on the eve of the elections, PMC Wagner supports Belarus.
  • The Belarusian authorities will not interfere with PMC Wagner recruitment of Belarusians, but there will be no special “points” awarded for this.

France was the first to react to the invitation of the Wagner PMC to Belarus, contacting Lukashenka to warn him that the move sent a bad signal. The U.S. State Department said the decision to invite Wagner to Belarus was another sign that the Lukashenka regime prioritises Vladimir Putin’s interests and will not contribute to the country’s stability.

Poland decided to strengthen its Eastern defences and called on NATO to respond decisively to the presence of PMC Wagner in Belarus.

Ukraine is also monitoring the situation and strengthening the Northern front.

It is possible that the “mutiny” of Wagner PMC led by Prigozhin was always a performance aimed at creating a cover story for the redeployment of the Wagnerites to Belarus, and to divert attention from the covert transportation of the first batch of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarusian territory.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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