Russia’s Wagner fighters have not visited Belarus barracks: Minsk

Belarus adds to the uncertainty surrounding the Russian mercenary force, which was expected to be exiled after its brief mutiny.

Alleged Wagner camps
Journalists work in a tent camp, which, according to the Belarusian defence ministry, was set up for exercises at a disused military base near the village of Tsel in the Asipovichy district, Belarus July 7, 2023 [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

No one from the Russian Wagner mercenary group has yet visited a disused military camp that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has offered for Wagner’s use, according to an adviser to Minsk’s defence minister.

Under the terms of an agreement brokered by Lukashenko to end an armed mutiny by Wagner last month, its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was supposed to move to Belarus along with those of his fighters who did not wish to sign up with the Russian defence ministry.

But the deal does not seem to be playing out on those lines.

Asked if Wagner had come to look at the site, the adviser, Leonid Kasinsky, said on Friday, “They have not come, they have not looked.”

Lukashenko said on Thursday that Prigozhin was in Russia, and that the question of his thousands of fighters’ relocation had yet to be settled.

He said Wagner’s fighters were still in the permanent camps where they had been located since they left the front, and that he expected to discuss the matter in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lukashenko said Belarus had offered Wagner the disused Soviet-era military quarters near Tsel, but added that “Wagner has a different vision for deployment”, on which he declined to elaborate.

Kasinsky said around 300 tents at the camp had been put up for an exercise and were not connected to Wagner.

The Kremlin has said it is not tracking Prigozhin’s movements, but state-backed media has turned more sharply against the mercenary chief in recent days.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Russian defence and military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer cast the situation between Russia and Wagner, which has baffled war analysts, as a ceasefire, saying that the Kremlin is not yet ready to take the mercenary force on.

Last month’s Wagner mutiny threw the top mercenary’s relations with the Russian leader into question and, so it seemed, he was exiled.

Tensions had come to a head after Prigozhin raged for months at Russia’s top brass in foul-mouthed diatribes, accusing them of incompetence in their war efforts in Ukraine. He described his Wagner fighters as leading on the battlefields, before marching towards Moscow.INTERACTIVE - Wagner Group revolt against Russia Progozhin

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies