‘I joked about Wagnerites’: Lukashenko backpedals on earlier words about restless mercenaries eager for ‘excursion’ to Warsaw
The president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko says he was only joking when he hinted, during a meeting with Vladimir Putin, that the Wagner fighters stationed in Belarus were restless “to go on an excursion to Warsaw.”
On July 23, Interfax quoted Lukashenko as saying: “The Wagnerites started to bother us. They say, ‘We want to go west. Let us.’ I ask them, Why west? ‘Well, to go on an excursion to Warsaw, to Rzeszow.’ I’m keeping them in the center of Belarus, as was agreed upon, I would not like to relocate them there, because they are in a bad mood.”
Days after these playful remarks, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki voiced concern over the information that about 100 Wagner mercenaries were moving in the direction of the Suwałki Gap, an area of strategic importance to both Poland and the Baltic countries.
But today, during his meeting with the residents of a farming community in the Brest region of Belarus, Lukashenko changed his rhetoric abruptly, claiming Belarus didn’t “need” the Suwałki Corridor “in a thousand years” and that no Wagnerites were going in that direction:
On July 14, Belarus acknowledged the arrival of Wagner formations in the country, releasing a TV segment on mercenaries employed as military instructors in the Mogilev region. The ministry then announced conducting joint exercises with Wagner Group at the Brestsky military base near the Polish border. Around the same time, a member of the Wagner “commanders’ council” said that a total of 10,000 mercenaries were expected to be deployed in Belarus.