Wagner Group’s presence in Belarus draws NATO’s attention

Wagner group in Belarus camp

In Belarus, where some of the Wagner Group’s mercenaries have been stationed since a short-lived mutiny in Russia in June, NATO allies who are situated along the alliance’s eastern border are growing more concerned about their presence.

Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, all NATO and European Union members that border Belarus, have been on high alert since significant numbers of migrants and refugees began arriving at their borders two years ago.

Since the Wagner troops started arriving in Belarus following their brief rebellion in Russia, worries have increased.

Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, reported over the weekend that around 100 Wagner fighters from Belarus had approached Poland’s border, particularly a key strategic sector known as the Suwalki Gap.

“Now the situation becomes even more dangerous,” Morawiecki told reporters. “This is certainly a step towards a further hybrid attack on Polish territory.”

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An incident on Tuesday added further to the concerns, with two Belarusian helicopters entering Polish air space at low altitude while carrying out exercises.

NATO was informed of the incident by Poland’s defence minister, and the organisation stated on Wednesday that it is keeping an eye on the situation.

“NATO is closely tracking the situation along its eastern borders, including yesterday’s incident where two Belarusian military helicopters briefly crossed into Polish airspace at low altitude,” a NATO official said on customary condition of anonymity.

“We are in close contact with the Polish authorities on this matter, and we will continue to do what is necessary to ensure all alliance territory remains secure,” the official added.

More troops and weaponry are reportedly being sent to Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia’s borders.

The commander of Latvia’s State Border Guard, Guntis Pujats, told Latvian media on Wednesday that the Wagner Group’s entry has increased the security dangers in the region of the Belarusian border, which have been high ever since Minsk began employing migrants as a means of “hybrid warfare.”

In response, he said border guards have begun preparing a specialised task force.

Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda said this week that it would be tempting for the Wagner Group to use its presence near the Lithuanian border “for various provocations”.

“So I think the threat is serious,” Nauseda said during a visit on Monday to a site on the border with Belarus where seven Lithuanian officers were murdered by Soviet paratroopers 32 years ago.

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