Wagner fighters newly-arrived in Belarus do not pose an immediate threat of attack against Ukraine but could be “utilized for informational and psychological special operations,” Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) has told Kyiv Post.
Earlier this week, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was filmed welcoming his fighters to the country in the wake of the failed rebellion against the Kremlin. The exact numbers are unknown but at least nine convoys of men and material have been reported arriving in Belarus.
While the redeployment of the mercenaries is being closely watched in Kyiv, Andrii Yusov, a representative of HUR, told Kyiv Post they are not present in sufficient numbers to attack Ukraine.
He said: “Even according to figures released by Prigozhin himself, there will be up to 10 thousand fighters in Belarus, which is not a significant number to form aggressive shock troops for attacking Ukrainian territories.”
Yusov also said noted they had been “disarmed of heavy weaponry” as they withdrew from areas of occupied Ukraine, but added: “However, they can still be utilized for Informational and psychological special operations, to unnerve both Ukraine and partners from the European Union and NATO member countries, and to divert forces and resources.”
Earlier in the week, Lieutenant General Serhiy Naev, the commander of the United Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, stated that they are taking proactive measures to secure the state border and make it impassable for enemy forces.
Ukrainian troops have dug more than 40 km of anti-tank trenches and laid over 30,000 mine traps in the Chernihiv region.
"We know that mercenaries of the "Wagner" PMC have been arriving on the territory of Belarus recently. If they try to step on Ukrainian soil with their dirty boots, death will await them," the commander said.
Ukrainian troops will additionally strengthen sections of the state border with non-explosive and explosive barriers, which "will be a surprise for the enemy," he added.
Andrii Yusov. PHOTO: Ukrinform.
At the beginning of the week, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas, commenting on the arrival of Wagner to Belarus, said: "I would call them groups that, without weapons, ammunition, and rear support, are crossing into Belarus. The number is small.
“This fundamentally does not change the situation in the region, which has become more complicated since the beginning of Russia's aggression against Ukraine."
In the video published this week, told his fighters they will be based in Belarus "for some time" and won’t be returning to Ukraine anytime soon and should instead prepare for operations in Africa.
"We are preparing, raising our level, and embarking on a new path to Africa, and perhaps we will return to the 'special military operation' when we are certain that we will not be forced to compromise ourselves and our combat experience," he said.
Prigozhin also said they will help make the Belarus's army the "the second-best army in the world, and if necessary, we will stand up for them."
Yusov said the Wagner fighters “possess real combat experience in genuine war conditions,” something “the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus have not encountered until now.”
“This is invaluable experience for them that will undoubtedly be utilized," he added.
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