The Kremlin has warned Belarus not to extradite the Wagner Group mercenaries captured in Minsk to Ukraine to be prosecuted for possible crimes in the Russian-backed war in the Donbass region of East Ukraine.
The extradition of Russian citizens detained in Minsk to Ukraine would inevitably spoil relations between Russia and Belarus, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. In their opinion, such a scenario would be disadvantageous for president Alexander Lukashenko right before the elections. Meanwhile, Belarusian officials continue to add fuel to the flame, the newspaper writes. According to Lukashenko, up to 200 people could allegedly be moved to the country to destabilize the situation. Russia called on Minsk “to stop igniting unnecessary negative emotions” and insisted on the quickest release of its citizens, wrote Russian state news agency TASS.
“First of all, Belarusians need to release the detained Russian citizens who were moving in transit to a third country to fulfill contractual obligations. Minsk should also apologize for the unjustified detention,” said First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Vodolatsky.
“This scandal before the elections would be unfavorable for Alexander Lukashenko – he positions himself as a pro-Russian candidate who stands for the Union State – such scandals lead to a division between countries, not integration,” said Associate Professor of the Department of International Relations and Russian Foreign Policy at MGIMO University Oleg Aleksandrov, reported TASS.
Kyiv says it will seek the extradition of alleged contractors from the Russian private military company Vagner being held in Belarus as Moscow demanded their release, saying they were in transit and headed to Turkey, reported RFERL.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office said Kyiv would ask Belarus to hand over 28 of the detainees on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Nine Ukrainian citizens are among the 28, it said.
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