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Poland transfers forces to eastern border as Wagner convoys enter Belarus

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 18, 2023 11:50 PM 3 min read
Polish border guards near the new fence on the Polish-Belarusian border near the village of Nowdziel on June 30, 2022, in Podlaskie Voivodeship, Poland. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Two Polish brigades have been transferred from the west of the country to locations near the border with Belarus, Polish defense minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on July 18.

The move is in response to the growing presence of the Wagner group in the country, the minister said.

One brigade will be located at a new base in Kolno, in the north east of Poland. Another will be located in Biała Podlaska, a town in the east of Poland about 32 kilometers from the Belarusian border.

On July 17, a third convoy of Wagner group fighters arrived in Belarus from Russia.
According to a report by monitoring group Belarusian Hajun, the column included 20 vehicles, including pickups, trucks, and buses, driving under Russian and Wagner flags.

The anti-government monitoring group believes it is at least the third Wagner convoy that has arrived in Belarus since July 11.

The transfer of Wagner forces is allegedly a result of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko's deal with Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, following his armed rebellion against the Russian government in late June.

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Prigozhin's troops stopped short of reaching Moscow on June 24. The deal reportedly entails that the mercenary group will relocate to Belarus, where camps are being built to house the fighters.

On July 18, the BBC verified satellite images that show about 300 tents that have been erected at Tsel, a disused military base in southern Belarus, over a two-week period. They counted 31 large vehicles as part of a convoy that arrived at Tsel on July 17.

Ukraine's Border Guard Service commented that the mercenaries do not pose a serious threat to Ukraine, as their numbers count in mere hundreds.

Błaszczak made the announcement while on an official visit to the U.S. Though he recognized the presence of U.S. soldiers in Poland as important to deter any threats from Belarus, he emphasized that "above all, the Polish Army defends Poland."

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