Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has said that the Wagner mercenary group is ‘itching’ to march on Poland.
During a meeting with Vladimir Putin on Sunday, Lukashenko is reported to have said he was ‘stressed’ because he was having to restrain them.
A video posted on Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, shows Lukashenko saying: ‘They are asking to go to the West: ‘Allow us,’ Lukashenko said.
‘I said, “Why do you want to go west?” So they say, “We control what happens: let’s go on an excursion to Warsaw and Rzeszow,” referring to the Polish capital and a key military hub for the country.
Based less than 10km from the Polish border, the Wagner group was exiled to Belarus after an apparent botched coup to oust Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin (L) and Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko (R) visit Museum of Naval Glory during a visit to Kronstadt, on Kotlin Island, outside Saint Petersburg, on July 23, 2023
Belarusian soldiers of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) attend the weeklong maneuvers with mercenary fighter from Wagner private military company, on July 20, 2023
Lukashenko added: ‘I am keeping them in central Belarus, like we agreed. We are controlling what is happening. [But] they are in a bad mood.’
He also presented Putin with a map showing what he said were Polish plans to attack Belarus.
Poland recently moved 1,000 troops towards Belarus to bolster security as footage appears to show Wagner forces training with Belarusian troops on the Polish border.
footage appears to show Wagner forces training with Belarusian troops on the Polish border.
Belarus is bordered to the northwest by Lithuania and to the west by Poland.
It is separated from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad by the Suwałki Gap, the border between Lithuania and Poland.
The gap is NATO’s eastern flank, considered a point of vulnerability as, if overwhelmed, it could cut off the Baltic States from their western allies.
Russia accuses Poland of making aggressive moves east.
On Friday, Putin said: ‘Poland’s leaders likely seek to set up a coalition under the NATO umbrella and directly join the conflict in Ukraine, and then ‘tear off’ a wider piece for themselves, restore their, as they believe, historical territory – today’s western Ukraine.’
Poland formerly held sway over much of central and eastern Europe as part of a wider commonwealth with Lithuania and including parts of modern day Ukraine.
It lost much of its territory during a period of crisis in the 18th century and was partitioned by Russia in 1772, 1792 and 1795 – souring relations irreparably.
While many Poles may regret the new borders imposed by Russia after WWII, there is no serious case for Poland trying to ‘retake’ former territories, like Lviv.
The Polish government has pledged to set up a sapper battalion nearby to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank and secure the Suwałki Gap.
A Belarusian soldier prepares to fire an automatic grenade launcher during the weeklong maneuvers with Wagner PMC near the border city of Brest, Belarus, on July 20, 2023
Ukrainian servicemen of the First Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine fire an OTO-Melara Mod 56, an Italian-made 105 mm pack howitzer, towards Russian troops at a front line, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine July 23, 2023
According to US intelligence reports, Russia has also deployed nuclear weapons to the Belarusian puppet state.
On Sunday, Poland’s Marcin Przydacz, head of the International Policy Bureau at the President’s Office, said: ‘The decision by the Russians to deploy nuclear weapons to Belarus causes a growth in the instability of the threat.
‘This is not in any way an act resulting from any necessity. It is a desire to escalate and to prompt additional tensions. That is how the Russian actions should be seen.’
In response to the growing hostilities, and in addition to the 1,000 troops deployed to the border area, the Polish government has announced a sapper battalion will now be set up nearby.
The comments come as Poland moved 1,000 troops to the border with Belarus and the Kremlin accused Poland of territorial ambitions in Ukraine.