Ukraine’s State Border Service reported Friday that Russia has withdrawn practically all of its troops from Belarus after they completed training and drills there.
Speaking at a briefing in Kyiv, border service spokesman Andriy Demchenko said the situation on Ukraine’s border with Belarus remains fully controlled. He stated they do not see any Russian troop buildup across the border that would be needed for another invasion of Ukraine. However, Demchenko cautioned Ukraine must stay vigilant as Belarus continues supporting Russia’s war.
Demchenko explained Russia has used Belarus as a location to train its units amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. He said the number of Russian soldiers at Belarusian training grounds has only decreased recently. Ukraine had observed around 2,000 Russian troops there until a recent rotation pulled out practically all forces.
The Russian troop pullout happened as Wagner units began arriving in Belarus. The arrival was anticipated after Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed those Wagner fighters who wanted to follow their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was banished to Belarus following an unsuccessful mutiny. However, it is unclear how many of the once 25,000-strong PMC known for key Russian operations in Ukraine will choose to do so, as they were also were offered to transition under the command of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The US-based Institute for Study of War has assessed that Putin seeks to preserve Wagner as a fighting force but without Prigozhin. It is, therefore, interesting to observe the number of Wagnerites who choose loyalty to Prigozhin, who the Kremlin saw as gaining too much power.
Ukraine’s border guard spokesman Demchenko said on 15 July that the State Border Service of Ukraine confirmed the arrival of some individual Wagner Group units in Belarus. They will be closely monitored, Demchenko told Ukrainska Pravda.
Demchenko said Ukraine continues tracking the situation to understand where mercenaries may be stationed, their numbers, and missions.
The same day, the Belarusian monitoring project Belaruski Hayun reported sighting a large convoy of cars with plates of Russia’s proxy republics in east Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics,” carrying Wagner fighters crossing from Russia into Belarus. A column of 60 vehicles, including various trucks and at least three buses, was noticed heading from Rogachev to Osipovichi as it was accompanied by traffic police, indicating that the Wagnerites were moving to the tent camp near Tsel village.
After taking in Prigozhin, Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced he wants Wagner to train the Belarusian Army, and just yesterday, the Belarusian MoD announced such training had started.
- Putin allows Wagner fighters to “leave to Belarus,” quit, or subordinate to Russia’s MoD
- Victims of “Donbas genocide” were paid actors, Prigozhin’s fired trolls reveal
- Wagner’s mercenaries train Belarusian troops – Belarus MoD
- Putin wants to keep the Wagner group as a fighting force, but without Prigozhin – ISW