(CTN NEWS) – The border guard service of Ukraine has officially confirmed that mercenaries belonging to the Wagner group have recently entered Belarus from neighboring Russia.
The State Border Guard Service (DPSU) is currently assessing the number of militants present in Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine, as well as their precise location and objectives.
Although unverified, there have been reports suggesting that a convoy consisting of approximately 60 Wagner vehicles crossed the Belarusian border early on Saturday.
Wagner Mercenaries’ Mutiny Challenges Putin’s Authority in June
In June, Wagner mercenaries staged a mutiny that posed a challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority.
The rebellion, which lasted for 24 hours, concluded with a negotiated settlement after the troops had seized a city and were marching towards Moscow, stopping just 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from the capital.
According to the agreement, Wagner fighters were given the option to either join the regular Russian army or relocate to Belarus, a close ally of Russia.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, was also offered the opportunity to move to Belarus; however, his current whereabouts remain unknown.
Wagner is a Russian private military company comprised predominantly of mercenary fighters, many of whom were recruited from Russian prisons.
They have been involved in some of the bloodiest battles since Russia initiated its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of the previous year.
Wagner Mercenaries Confirmed in Belarus as Ukraine Monitors the Situation
On Saturday, Andriy Demchenko, the spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service (DPSU) of Ukraine, confirmed Wagner’s presence in Belarus in a brief statement.
He stated that Ukrainian border guards were actively monitoring the situation along the country’s northern border but did not provide any further details.
Earlier in the day, a Telegram channel associated with a prominent Belarusian opposition blogger reported the entry of a large Wagner convoy into Belarus from Russia.
The channel, known as Belaruski Hajun, mentioned that the convoy consisted of various vehicles, including pickups, lorries, and buses.
And was accompanied by Belarusian traffic police as they headed towards the town of Osipovichy, located approximately 85 kilometers (53 miles) southeast of the capital city, Minsk.
The Belarusian authorities, who consider Belaruski Hajun an extremist channel, have not made any comments regarding this development.
The Belarusian defense ministry had previously announced that Wagner troops were serving as military instructors for the country’s territorial defense forces.
They stated that the fighters were providing training to Belarusian forces in multiple military disciplines near Osipovichy.
President Putin Reveals Wagner Leader’s Rejection of Joining Russian Army as Regular Unit
Recently, President Vladimir Putin disclosed that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, had rejected an offer for his fighters to join the Russian army as a regular unit.
Putin revealed that during talks in Moscow on June 29, the plan for Wagner fighters to become a regular unit, led by a senior Wagner figure, had received support from many group commanders.
However, Prigozhin’s response was that “the guys [Wagner troops] do not agree with this decision.”
President Putin also mentioned that, according to Russian law, Wagner “does not exist” since mercenary groups are not officially recognized. Nonetheless, he suggested that this complex issue should be addressed in parliament.
It appears that the Kremlin aims to create a distinction between the Wagner leader and regular Wagner fighters, trying to create divisions among them.
This explains the efforts in Russia’s state media to discredit Prigozhin, as observed by Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s Russia editor in Moscow.
Following the mutiny on June 23rd, reports regarding the whereabouts of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former Putin loyalist and at one time nicknamed “Putin’s chef” due to his catering contracts with the Kremlin, have been conflicting and unverified.
Prigozhin has been involved in public disputes with Russia’s Ministry of Defence concerning the war’s handling, which has strained his relationship with the Russian government.
In relation to the mutiny, US President Joe Biden cautioned Prigozhin to be cautious about the risk of poisoning on Thursday.
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