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Lukashenko says Wagner Group will stay in Belarus

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 25, 2023 5:39 PM 3 min read
Belarus' dictator Alexander Lukashenko speaks as he meets with foreign media at his residence, the Independence Palace, in the capital Minsk on July 6, 2023. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
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Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko denied reports of Wagner mercenaries leaving Belarus following the reported death of the group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, according to the state-controlled news agency Belta.

"Wagner lived, Wagner lives, and Wagner will live in Belarus, no matter if some don't want this. Prigozhin and I had built a system for how Wagner would be deployed in our country,” Lukashenko told a press conference on Aug. 25, cited by Belta.

His statement comes a day after ​​Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarusian service published satellite images showing that a camp for Wagner Group fighters in Belarus' village of Tsel was being actively dismantled.

“Why do we remove extra tents - we don't need so many. The core (of Wagner contingent in Belarus) remains here, someone went on vacation, someone decided to live apart altogether,” claimed Lukashenko, commenting on the RFE/RL report.

Pentagon: Wagner ‘no longer a factor on the battlefield in Ukraine’
The combat effectiveness of the Wagner Group is no longer a factor in Russia’s war against Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson General Pat Ryder said during a press briefing on Aug. 24 in response to a question about the presumed death of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in a plane crash.

“Within a few days, everyone will be here, up to 10,000 people. There is currently no need to keep them here. They are not running away."

Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service has also said that the number of Wagner Group mercenaries stationed in Belarus is gradually decreasing. Wagner forces had started to leave in "not significant" numbers even prior to the plane crash reportedly killing Prigozhin, after which the departure became more apparent, according to the Service’s spokesperson.

UK Defense Ministry: Prigozhin’s death to cause destabilizing power vacuum in Wagner
The reported death of Yevgeny Prigozhin and other senior members of the Wagner Group will “almost certainly” have a destabilizing effect on the mercenary company, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence report on Aug. 25.

Prigozhin and other senior Wagner leaders were listed as passengers of the private Embraer Legacy plane that crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino in Russias Tver Oblast on Aug. 23. All 10 people on board died in the crash.

On Aug. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed Prigoshin’s death. The likely cause of the crash was a bomb onboard or "some other form of sabotage," according to unnamed U.S. officials cited by the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 24.

Ukraine's National Resistance Center reported one day after the Embraer Legacy plane crash that Wagner convoys are on their way from Belarus to Russia.

In June, the mercenary leader launched a short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin, capturing the city of Rostov and marching toward Moscow before abruptly ending the insurrection less than 24 after it began.

Following an undisclosed deal allegedly brokered by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, Wagner mercenaries were allowed to leave for Belarus. Camps for the mercenaries were set up in the country as they started providing training to the Belarusian military.

At the Aug. 25 press conference, Lukashenko claimed he hadn't given Prigozhin any security guarantees after the failed mutiny attempt, Belta reported.

"First of all, I was not supposed to ensure Prigozhin's safety. Second, our conversation never went into it," the Belarusian dictator said.

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