According to comments from a Belarusian guerrilla group and officials, the Wagner mercenary group’s warriors may be housed in the camp, according to satellite pictures evaluated by The Associated Press on Saturday. The camp appeared to have just been constructed and was located in Belarus.
At a former military base outside of Osipovichi, a town located 230 kilometers (142 miles) north of the Ukrainian border, it appears from the photographs provided by Planet Labs PLC that dozens of tents have been set up within the previous two weeks. The rows of white and green structures visible in a picture obtained later, on June 30, are not apparent in a satellite image taken on June 15.
Following Minsk’s assistance in negotiating a settlement to terminate what seemed to be an armed uprising by the mercenary group, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and his fighters were spared punishment and provided asylum in Belarus last week. The failed uprising saw Wagner troops, who had fought alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, seize a military command center in southern Russia and advance virtually unhindered hundreds of kilometers (miles) into Moscow.
The autocratic leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, declared that the fighters had been offered an “abandoned military unit” to set up camp, saying that his nation, a close and dependant ally of Moscow, could benefit Wagner’s experience and knowledge.
Wagner mercenaries’ base of operations is being built close to Osipovichi, according to Aliaksandr Azarau, the head of the anti-Lukashenko BYPOL guerrilla group of former military personnel.
According to a spokesperson for Ukraine’s border force, 8,000 fighters from Wagner’s private military group could be sent to Belarus on Saturday. Andriy Demchenko stated in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper that Ukraine would fortify its 1,084 km (674 mi) border with Belarus in retaliation.
Previously, Lukashenko permitted the Kremlin to deploy troops and weaponry into Ukraine via Belarusian soil. He has also expressed support for Russia’s sustained military presence in Belarus, including joint military training exercises and the stationing of some of its tactical nuclear weapons there.
Demchenko stated on Saturday that as of this week, there were still about 2,000 regular Russian army personnel stationed in Belarus.
During a Friday night gala commemorating Belarusian Independence Day, Lukashenko claimed that the mercenaries were “not a threat” to Belarusians. He also suggested that Wagner members train the Belarusian military forces.
Additionally, he stated that he was “sure” Belarus would not be required to utilize the nuclear weapons stationed on its soil or personally participate in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
As we age, the more certain we get that (nuclear weapons) belong to us, in Belarus, in a secure location. And while we have them, I’m confident that we won’t ever need to use them and that the enemy will never step foot on our territory.