The smell of felled wood hangs around the recently built camp in Tsel, Belarus, that could house fighters from Wagner’s private militia after their failed insurrection in Russia and the deal brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to welcome them.
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But President Lukashenko confirmed on Thursday that the sulfuric chief of the Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigogine, is in Russia and not “on the territory of Belarus.” According to him, the Wagner fighters are “in their permanent camps” in Ukraine and not in Belarus “for the time being”.
However, Yevgeny Prigogine was, according to the agreement reached with the Kremlin through the mediation of Mr. Lukashenko that ended the Wagner Rebellion on June 24, to go into exile in Belarus, an ally and neighbor of Russia.
In response to a question, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, for his part, replied that Moscow “does not follow the movements” of Wagner’s chief.
“If you look for them, you won’t find them here,” Leonid Kasinsky, an officer of the Belarusian Ministry of Defense, greeted reporters at the recently built camp in Tsil, in the Asipovichi commune, in the Mogilev region (center). ).
Leonid Kasinsky was showing the new camp to a group of foreign journalists who were also invited to take part in a rare “round the table” interview with President Lukashenko.
Around it, the 300 tents, which could hold about 5,000 men, were empty. In one of them, you could see some guards resting.
Mr. Kasinski said these tents were set up in anticipation of training exercises that will take place in the fall.
“Since the camp is ready, it may be shown” to Wagner, only the Ministry officer agreed.
The media published satellite images of this camp under construction immediately after the mutiny, and speculated the arrival of Wagner fighters as part of the agreement negotiated by the Belarusian president.
On June 27, Lukashenko announced the arrival of Yevgeny Prigozhin to Belarus.
But on Thursday he acknowledged that the issue of Wagner’s “transfer” to Belarus “has not been settled.”
After his 24-hour mutiny that rocks the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin asserts that he does not want to seize power, but simply to protect Wagner from being dismantled by the Russian General Staff, whom he accuses of incompetence.
However, his men, mercenaries funded by the Russian authorities, have been accused of atrocities in several countries, including Ukraine, the Central African Republic and Syria.
“I’m scared, I would like to live in peace, to see my children grow up, that’s all I can say,” a Belarusian woman said on condition of anonymity near a possible arrival camp for Wagner fighters.
However, other residents claim not to be afraid of anything. “Don’t worry me at all. Yelena Vengelinskaya, 45, who works in a kindergarten, said:
This is also the opinion of the Belarusian Ministry of Defense officer. “I don’t understand why we have problems with the Wagner Group,” Leonid Kasinsky told foreign reporters.
We will not compete with anyone. “We will receive their unique combat experience,” he said, adding that “the final say on where they will settle will be with Wagner and his commanders.”
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