A week after Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin fled to Minsk after leading a short-lived mutiny against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Poland has begun bolstering its defenses along its border with Belarus where the Polish government will be deploying an additional 500 counterterrorism police. Both Poland and Ukraine have voiced growing concerns over the past week that Wagner might have established bases in Belarus and Kyiv has also announced that it will be strengthening its military positions along its northern border.
Over the weekend, the Polish Border Guard announced that 187 people had tried to illegally cross the border from Belarus into Poland. Warsaw has accused Minsk of attempting to create an immigration crisis for Poland as it tries to push migrants from Africa and the Middle East into Poland. Minsk has denied the accusation.
While there are already 2,000 soldiers and 5,000 security guards currently stationed at the border, Warsaw still felt the need to reinforce those troops and guards with the additional 500 police officers who come from specially trained units.
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Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski explained the concerns surrounding having Wagner forces in neighboring Belarus, saying that it could lead to “a new phase of hybrid warfare, a phase much more difficult than the one we have dealt with so far.”
While there has still not been a firm confirmation that large numbers of Wagner fighters have been sent to Belarus, Western satellite images suggest there could be new Wagner encampments in Belarus.
The images show activity at an unused military base roughly 13 miles from Asipovichy, which is about 64 miles from Minsk. According to Russian media reports, the area could be used to house Wagner forces.
The BBC has noted that more than 300 tent-like structures have been erected within the past 2 weeks. Meanwhile, satellite images taken on June 15 don’t show any of the tent structures but images from June 30 show the extensive construction taking place at the base.
Polish officials in the meantime have indicated that as many as 8,000 Wagner fighters could currently be in Belarus.
Poland also intends to build up its fortifications along the border while NATO continues to build up its forces along the alliance’s ‘eastern flank,’ including in Lithuania.
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