Wagner holds military exercises with Belarusian forces close to Polish border

In this photo taken from a video released by the Belarusian Defense Ministry via VoyenTV on Friday, July 14, 2023, Belarusian soldiers attend a training by mercenary fighters from the Wagner private military company, near the village of Tsel, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Minsk, Belarus. (Belarusian Defense Ministry via VoenTV via AP)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

Members of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who recently arrived in Belarus are holding training exercises with Belarusian special forces near the border with Poland. Warsaw says it is monitoring the moves and that there is no need for “panic.”

The Belarusian defense ministry clearly wanted the joint exercises to be visible, stating that “the armed forces of Belarus continue joint training with the fighters of the Wagner private military company… During the week, special operations units, together with representatives of the company, will work out combat training tasks at the Brest military range.”

Stanisław Żaryn, a Polish government security official, told state media outlet TVP that “the announcement by the Belarusian side that the Wagner Group will take part in military exercises and maneuvers in the near future does not come as a surprise for Poland. Our answer is to strengthen our border with Belarus and calmly monitor what the Wagnerites will do in Belarus and how many of them will end up there,” he said.

So far, estimates suggest that there are between “several hundred and a thousand” Wagner mercenaries in Belarus.

“The participation of Wagnerites in certain hybrid operations or provocations against Poland is possible,” he said. “We don’t underestimate the threats in this matter, but we also are not panicking. What we have seen from the very beginning is psychological pressure on Poland, to show that the Wagnerites will do something against our country.  It is possible, and we are preparing for it, but for now we are seeing propaganda that serves to incite,” he added.

There has been considerable confusion over the whereabouts of both the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and his men. It had been reported that they were to relocate to Belarus immediately after their short-lived rebellion, but it was only in the last few days that satellite images appeared to show Wagner forces arriving at the camp, with a video published appearing to show Prigozhin welcoming them to Belarus.

In June, the Polish government announced that it was strengthening the border with Belarus in response to a potential Wagner threat. It feared that the mercenaries would be used to facilitate attempts by illegal migrants to cross Polish borders and boost the hybrid warfare unleashed by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko in 2021

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