After aborting his march on Moscow, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, was reportedly headed to Belarus. Now, at least one British ex-general is voicing concern that Wagner could launch an attack against Kyiv from Belarus.
The former U.K. army chief, General Lord Richard Dannatt, said if Prigozhin gathers an “effective force” around him there, it would be a threat to Ukraine again. Wagner has been one of the most important forces in Russia’s fight against Ukraine, and despite serious losses, it is battle-hardened and could prove even more effective than the Russian army’s previous assault on Kyiv.
“Apparently, he’s left the stage to go to Belarus but is that the end of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group? The fact that he’s gone to Belarus is I think a matter of some concern,” said Dannatt.
As Remix News recently reported, on Friday, the Wagner mercenary group leader declared war on the Russian Ministry of Defense and said he would march on Moscow in what appears to be a coup attempt. However, as he was advancing toward Moscow, after all-day talks with Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, Prigozhin gave up his plans, ordered his troops back, and was reportedly headed to Belarus.
Prigozhin may already have a base of support in Belarus. According to press reports, a group of Wagner mercenaries is already stationed in Belarus, training officers of a Belarusian security company, GardService, to take part in combat operations.
A company employee told the press last summer that the Wagner soldiers arrived in Minsk in late July and August. The representative of the United Provisional Cabinet for Defense and National Security, Valery Sakhaschik, had earlier said that GardService was the only company allowed to hold firearms under Lukashenka’s decree.
In recent months, GardService has significantly increased its staff, and there was also talk that it was preparing to participate in military operations in Ukraine. This is not the first time Belarusian involvement in the war in Ukraine has been reported in the press, but no concrete evidence of this has been found so far.
The company is run by a former soldier of the Belarusian Special Forces Brigade, Yevgeny Chanov. According to press reports, GardService’s employees are to be used in sabotage and reconnaissance teams and later as part of Wagner mercenaries for attacks.
Launched in Belarus in June 2020, Valery Sakhaschik has stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin invested a very substantial amount of money in GardService to create the Belarusian equivalent of Wagner.
Prigozhin’s whereabouts are unclear at the moment, and there are no reports that he has actually arrived in the post-Soviet country.