Belarusian law enforcement officials have detained a group of “fighters from a foreign private military company” near Minsk, the country’s official news agency reported. According to BelTA, it is about 32 people and it happened tonight.
Initially, local media did not receive more information from the investigation, the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry of Belarus. Shortly after 3 pm Bulgarian time, BelTA announced that they were Russian citizens from the private military company Wagner. It is believed to be linked to those particularly close to President Vladimir Putin, and that the Kremlin uses it around the world in places such as Syria, Venezuela and Libya.
According to BelTA, the total number of detained “fighters” is nearly 200, the Russians are only part of them.
There are presidential elections in Belarus on August 9, and Alexander Lukashenko has already said at a meeting of law enforcement agencies that his opponents may form “detachments and groups of fighters who – it is possible – will want to organize fights in the squares.”
Lukashenko, who has ruled for a quarter of a century, also spoke of some attempts to “bring the country to the Maidan” and that “puppet masters” were behind them. Ivan Tertel, chairman of the State Control Committee, added that these puppeteers are in Gazprom: “Such people are, as we know, big bosses in Gazprom, and maybe even higher.”
Private military companies are banned in Belarus, Reuters recalls. Minsk is in conflict with Gazprom’s local subsidiary and a bank in which the corporation has a stake, which is seen as part of a recent complicated relationship with Moscow and Lukashenko’s attempt to maintain favorable parameters of energy contracts with Russia.