Ukraine war: Poland strengthens Belarus border over Wagner fears
As part of an agreement to end their mutiny, the Wagner group has moved to Belarus. This has made Poland extra wary of its neighbor.
With miles of tall metal fencing, thermal cameras, and spotlights, a border once marked by a few pillars and wooden lookout posts has already been transformed.
Two years ago, Belarus began encouraging thousands of migrants to cross into Poland in what Warsaw calls hybrid warfare; Minsk and Moscow are close allies.
In preparation for this week’s Nato summit in Lithuania, the Polish government has deployed hundreds of additional officers to its eastern border as reinforcements.
In spite of the swarms of vicious summer bugs in the wheat fields, Michal Bura of the local border guard explains that Belarus is the biggest threat in the area.
No one really knows why Wagner is going there or what they are preparing for, so we must be ready for any development.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin and his band of mercenaries swept into Rostov unhindered more than two weeks ago, sending a second armed group marching towards Moscow, but the fate of the mutineers is still unclear.
Wagner’s fighters were intended to be exiled to Belarus along with their leader as part of the hasty deal that stopped their advance. Wagnerites have not yet been spotted in the large tent camp outside Minsk, likely prepared for them.
The group is still operating at home, despite going so rogue that President Vladimir Putin accused them of betraying Russia.
“Yes, we’re still recruiting,” Wagner told me in a voice message this weekend after I contacted him using a male name.
The mercenaries’ training camp has always been near Krasnodar in southern Russia, where I received detailed written instructions on how to find them.
“At the checkpoint… ask the soldiers where Wagner PMC is located,” read the message. “When you get to the second checkpoint, tell Anatoly that he sent you, and that you are there to sign up.”
Wagner’s contacts across Russia were still publicly listed online in the immediate aftermath of the mutiny in June. We were told they were still operating by everyone we contacted at the time.
We no longer have those lists, and when I called the numbers we had saved, the lines were disconnected or went straight to voicemail.
A contact online remains active, however.
I was instructed to bring flip-flops for the shower, my own underwear, a clean bill of health, and no drug habits. As a result, I would be put through my paces for an instructor to decide where I should be deployed.
In response to my question about being sent to Ukraine, “Anatoly” stopped responding.
Belarusians won’t be sorry if Wagner never shows up.
The chatter on Wagner’s recruitment from Russian prisons is accompanied by a lot of concern about being sent an “army of criminals”.
However, when he talks about the mercenaries’ march on Moscow last month, his eyes light up.