There has been much rumor and speculation about the ongoing threat posed by Wagner as they regroup in Belarus, but a recent intelligence assessment suggests they are severely lacking in heavy weapons.

What’s the latest?

Wagner’s redeployment in Belarus in the wake of the failed rebellion last month is being closely monitored by Ukraine and its allies.

The latest to comment is Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) which on Sunday said “several thousand Wagner troops” and around “300 tents and 200 vehicles” have been spotted in satellite imagery of their new camp in Tsel, Belarus, about 85 kilometers southeast of Minsk and 265 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

PHOTO: British MoD 

Do they pose a threat?

Poland – which shares a border with Belarus – certainly thinks so and has already moved troops closer to the border as a precaution.

Advertisement

Over the weekend, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, said: “The situation is getting increasingly dangerous... Most likely they (the Wagner personnel) will be disguised as the Belarusian border guard and help illegal migrants get to the Polish territory (and) destabilize Poland.”

Could they invade Poland?

Wagner, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko, certainly seem to want people to think it’s a possibility, and a recent report suggested the mercenary group is recruiting new fighters with conditions stipulating they must be willing to participate in fighting in Poland and Lithuania.

‘We Don’t Want You Here, K**wa’ – Polish Protesters Allegedly Handcuff Bus Passenger from Ukraine
Other Topics of Interest

‘We Don’t Want You Here, K**wa’ – Polish Protesters Allegedly Handcuff Bus Passenger from Ukraine

In one of the latest escalations at the Polish-Ukrainian border, a bus from Ukraine was stopped and a passenger holding an Israeli passport was allegedly handcuffed by protesters.

Putin and Lukashenko also met on Sunday, July 23, for the first time since the Belarus leader helped end a mutiny by Wagner and chatted on camera about Wagner’s intentions.

Lukashenko told Putin he was keeping control of newly arrived Wagner fighters in Belarus, but that they were “itching to invade Poland.”

“They are asking to go West, asking me for permission... to go on a trip to Warsaw, to Rzeszow,” Lukashenko said to Putin, who smiled.

Advertisement

“But of course, I’m keeping them in central Belarus, like we agreed.”

What does the latest intelligence say about this?

The MoD backs up the idea that this is all more of a psychological operation than any real threat.

It says that while “hundreds of vehicles have arrived at the previously mostly empty facility,” most of these reports are of “trucks and minibuses with few armored combat vehicles.”

It adds: “It remains unclear what has happened to the heavy equipment Wagner used in Ukraine; there is a realistic possibility that it was forced to return these to the Russian military.”

What is Wagner hoping to achieve?

Last week, Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) told Kyiv Post that Wagner fighters could be “utilized for informational and psychological special operations,” and keeping Poland on its toes and sowing fear and worry would certainly qualify as just that.

While dismissing the threat of a Wagner attack, Andrii Yusov said: “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.”

Advertisement

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the head of the Presidential Office, also deems the notion of a Wagner attack on a NATO country highly unpromising.

In the interview with a Russian opposition journalist, Yulia Latynina, he dismissed the threats made by Wagner PMCs against Poland, referring to them as “neither funny nor primitive jokes.”

Podolyak asserts that such an attack is implausible since the Wagner group no longer exists in its former capacity.

“Of course, this is impossible by default. There is no ‘Wagner’ today. A certain number of people stay close to [Wagner PMCs commander Dmitry] Utkin, well, or close to Prigozhin. But this is a minimal number of people, the rest will definitely not play this game,” he said.

So, Wagner isn’t about to invade a NATO country?

It seems highly unlikely. If Wagner did invade Poland, it would spark a major international incident, at the very least.

In theory, it could trigger Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which states that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in the exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Advertisement

In short, it would be NATO vs Wagner. It is unclear what form this would take – anything from Polish troops taking out a few Wagner fighters to the might of NATO taking the fight into Belarus itself.

Anything else I need to know?

As an interesting little bit of extra info, on July 19, Yevgeny Prigozhin gathered with militants near Asipovichy, in Belarus (20 kilometers from Tsel). During this meeting, he discussed the future of Wagner and symbolically handed over the group’s flag to a man known by the call sign “Pioneer,” whom he said would be the “chief in the Belarusian grouping.”

Recent investigations conducted by the monitoring project All Eyes on Wagner and Belarusian media outlet Nasha Niva, have revealed the identity of this individual – his name is reportedly Sergey Chubko, a 47-year-old Ukrainian native, born in Chernivtsi, who emigrated to Russia with his parents during the early 1990s.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter

Comments (0)

https://www.kyivpost.com/assets/images/author.png
Write the first comment for this!