Belarusian law enforcement officials said on Wednesday they had received information about more than 200 militants who had arrived in Belarus, more than 30 of whom had been detained and identified as fighters of the private military company Wagner, a shadow company believed to be supported by the St. Petersburg businessman. Eugene Prigogine.
Prigogine is a Russian oligarch who is often referred to as Putin’s “chef” for his close ties to the Kremlin. Wagner̵7;s fighters have previously been stationed in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, among other places.
Belarusian state television released a video of the raid, which showed that several men were detained in a hotel room. One man is handcuffed in bed. The video also showed the detainees’ alleged personal property, including passports, US dollars, other foreign currency and telephones.
The Prigozhin Concord group of companies reiterated its objection to Prigozhin’s ownership of Wagner in a comment posted on their VKontakte social media page in late Wednesday. Prigogine “has nothing to do with Wagner, does not fund them and does not monitor their place,” the statement said.
Prigogine was sanctioned by the United States for funding from the Internet Research Agency, which US intelligence says it ran in the 2016 presidential election.
Lukashenko has been accused of playing politics
Belta has published a list containing the full names of what was said – detained men. Belarusian State Security Committee detained the suspects with the help of special police units. The Belarusian Investigative Committee has opened an investigation.
Lukashenko has stated that he will demand an explanation from Russia, Belta reports. The Russian embassy in Belarus tweeted that it had received an official notification from the authorities about the detentions. Russia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin, who previously fought in eastern Ukraine against separatists; The party wrote on its Facebook page that it had identified several men who had served in its battalion among those arrested in Belarus. He suggested that the men were likely to travel through Belarus to fight elsewhere, and that Lukashenko used their delays to use them in the run-up to the election.
“Indeed, there are several former fighters from our battalion (who no longer exist, let me remind you). It is also well known that people who have been or are fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics are also fighting in different places. They are also going to Syria and other warm fighters. countries “, – Prilepin wrote.
“But if the Belarusian leadership starts using this story for its own purposes, it will definitely look ridiculous. It looks like a well-known story when well-educated people move to certain areas where they have their own business, they don’t need Belarus,” he added. Prilepin. “And I’m sure that the Belarusian special services are well aware that three dozen men in camouflage were going somewhere else.”
The US military recently accused Russia of sending Wagner’s mercenaries with weapons as anti-aircraft systems to carry out operations on the front lines of the conflict in Libya. The U.S. military has also released satellite images showing Wagner’s cars and Russian military equipment in Libya supporting anti-government rebels in the country’s civil war.
“Russia is using Wagner’s group as a proxy in Libya to establish a long-term presence in the Mediterranean,” the African command said in a statement.
“They continue to seek efforts to gain a foothold in Libya,” Brig said. In a statement, Deputy Director of Intelligence Command, General Gregory Hadfield.
Among the detained men were items confiscated by the authorities at the hotel, a document written in Arabic showing a prayer used by a Muslim Sunni religious order called al-Qadiriya, popular with Muslims in Arab countries in North Africa. The document and foreign currency found in their belongings indicate that the fighters may have been traveling to another point through the Belarusian capital.
“Visitors noticed when they behaved uncharacteristically for Russian tourists and wore military-style uniforms. They did not drink alcohol, did not visit any entertainment venues, [and] kept away from everyone to try and not pay attention to themselves, “- said in a statement Belta.
Alexei Kondratiev, a Russian senator and colonel in the GRU’s military intelligence unit, said the details of the detentions needed to be “verified and law enforcement agencies of both countries should cooperate,” the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.