Is the Wagner Group leaving Belarus and returning to Russia?

An instructor, member of the Wagner Group military company, speaks to Belarusian soldiers during training near the village of Cel, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Minsk, Belarus in July 2023. (Belarusian Defense Ministry via VoenTV via AP)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

Mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group are returning from Belarus to Russia, but there is no on-the-ground confirmation of this information, according to sources quoted by the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Wagner forces are in the first stage of withdrawal from Belarus, allegedly relocating groups of 500-600 mercenaries to the Krasnodar Territory, Voronezh, and Rostov regions in Russia, a Russian source reported on Tuesday.

The second stage of the withdrawal, according to the source cited by the ISW, is to start after Aug. 13.

It is claimed that Wagner forces may be leaving Belarus because President Lukashenko refused to finance the company when he learned that Russia would not be paying for the mercenaries.

A small group of Wagner Group instructors is to remain in Belarus to train Belarusian forces. However, American analysts emphasize that they have not observed evidence on the ground that could indicate the departure of mercenaries from Belarus.

The command allegedly called mercenaries who are off-duty and are in Russia to be on alert, as new orders could appear at any moment. Sources close to the Wagner Group maintain that the main forces of the unit will “become active” towards the end of August. However, details were not given.

Speculation about Wagner forces moving from Belarus to Russia, information about new command orders, and announcements of Wagner forces “activating” may indicate that aspects of the agreement, on the basis of which the mercenaries moved to Belarus, have crumbled.

Experts point out that at the time of the publication of the analysis, it is unclear whether speculations about the Wagner group’s withdrawal from Belarus are true. However, if these reports are confirmed, it could mean that the Russian authorities want to incorporate mercenaries into the country’s regular armed forces.

On June 24, Wagner forces occupied the headquarters of the Russian troops in Rostov-on-Don and then began to move towards Moscow. The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin demanded the “restoration of justice” in the army and the removal of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu from power.

That same evening, Prigozhin announced a retreat and withdrawal of mercenaries to field camps to “avoid bloodshed”. This was the result of an agreement between Lukashenko and Prigozhin, reached in agreement with Vladimir Putin. According to these arrangements, some of the Wagner Group fighters and Prigozhin himself were to move to Belarus.

Share This Article