Yevgeny Prigozhin says Wagner will ‘be here in Belarus for some time’
Wagner Group “terror squads” are plotting deadly attacks on Polish soil as the number of mercenaries in neighbouring Belarus continues to grow, a Ukrainian security expert has warned.
And Oleksandr Musiienko, head of the Centre for Military Legal Studies, believes the so-called Private Military Company (PMC), founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin in 2014, should “absolutely” be designated “a terrorist organisation in service of the Kremlin” given its brutal track record of “torture and beheading”.
Mr Musiienko was speaking as the Polish government announced plans to deploy an extra 2,000 troops to its border with Belarus, twice the number the Border Guard agency had requested, as fears of illegal migration rise.
The head of Kyiv-based think-tank the Centre of Military and Legal Studies suggested Warsaw was at least in part motivated by concerns about Wagner fighters posing as migrants in order to cross into the country.
Estimating there were currently between 6,000 and 6,500 mercenaries in the country he told Express.co.uk: “They are continuing to come to Belarus, so the total number could be more in the near future. But I think that some of them will go to Africa, also.”
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He added: “The main goal for the Wagner group in Belarus is provocations, escalations against Poland, Lithuania and also sabotage and terrorist attacks on the territory of Poland.
“That’s Vladimir Putin’s strategy, trying to check the Polish and NATO reactions.”
Putin wanted to gauge the Western response to Wagner and strategies for countering its influence, Mr Musiienko said.
He added: “Russia hasn’t had military success in Ukraine. That’s why Kremlin has a plan to escalate the situation on the Belarus-Polish border, and blackmail the West because of the threat of a new conflict.
“And further to incline the West towards negotiations and concessions, in particular on the issue of Ukraine. That’s the plan. So NATO needs to be united and support Poland, Lithuania and all Eastern NATO flank.”
Asked to outline what he saw as the main threats posed by Wagner, Mr Musiienko replied: “Penetration into Poland under the guise of illegal migrants for the purpose of intelligence and surveillance and preparation of terrorist attacks.
“And on the next stage of escalation to try to penetrate the Polish territory in the squads of 100-150 people and commit sabotage and terrorist attacks – and enter into local combat clashes with the Polish military and return to the territory of Belarus.”
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was entirely complicit, with the aim of “scaring and dividing NATO”, Mr Musiienko declared.
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He emphasised: “For instance, how will the NATO members categorise the actions of the Wagner Group? As an act of Russian aggression or a terrorist attack?
“From my point of view actions like this need to be categorised as an act of Russian aggression. NATO members need to be firm and determined in this.
“The Wagner Group should be recognised as a terrorist organisation because their methods are absolutely terrorist.
“They killed, tortured, beheaded and committed other crimes. In fact, it is a terrorist organisation in the service of the Kremlin.”
In an interview with state news agency PAP earlier this week, deputy interior minister, Maciej Wasik announced the decision to increase troop numbers, accused the Belarusian authorities of organising illegal migration.
He said: “If we had real border guards on the other side and not a smuggling service, these crossings would not exist at all.”
Earlier this week Belarus also began military exercises near its border with Poland and Lithuania.
Additionally, last week two Belarusian helicopters flew briefly into Polish air space in what was viewed by Warsaw as a deliberate provocation.
On Thursday, it was revealed that Poland was sending 10,000 soldiers to its border with Belarus in a clear indication of mounting tensions.
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