Mr Lukashenko, who has a reputation for chaotic behavior and wild claims, said on Tuesday that he had contracted the coronavirus but had recovered completely without treatment. The announcement was skeptical, as it played on his long-held position that the pandemic did not pose a serious threat to public health and could be kept in fear, drinking vodka, driving tractors and playing ice hockey.
In June, Lukashenko arrested two rival candidates in the August 9 presidential election in Belarus on corruption charges, claiming he had thwarted a conspiracy to fuel the revolution in Russia’s interests.
On Wednesday, the government released footage of this week’s night raid on a sanitary facility near Minsk, where 32 Russian fighters were arrested; another was arrested in another part of the country. The video featured heavily armed officers of the Belarusian security service – still, as in Soviet times, the KGB – storming guest rooms occupied by alleged mercenaries. It showed several capricious Russians in handcuffs, one of them lying on the floor in boxing shorts, Russian passports and a stack of $ 100.
But items seized during the raid also included banknotes and phone cards from Sudan and texts written in Arabic, suggesting that the arrested Russians may have been on their way to or from North Africa rather than on a mission. aimed at Belarus.
According to Belta, the arrested Russians were suspected as soon as they arrived in Belarus, as each man had three heavy suitcases, wore military-style clothing and behaved “uncharacteristically for Russian tourists”, avoiding alcohol and avoiding nightclubs.
The Wagner group, a mercenary squad accused of employing men, sent fighters, mostly veterans of Russia’s armed forces, to Syria, Libya, Sudan and other countries. According to US officials, he is controlled by Mr. Prigogine, known as “Putin’s chef” because of his success in winning Russian military supply contracts.