Wagner Fighters Train Soldiers in Belarus

It's not clear how many members of the mercenary force are in Belarus

Belarus announced Friday that members of the Wagner mercenary force were in the country training Belarusian soldiers.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said Wagner members were training soldiers in Osipovichi, a town about 60 miles southeast of Minsk. The ministry did not specify the number of Wagner fighters in the country, and at this point, it’s not clear how many of the mercenaries decided to go to Belarus.

The ministry said in a statement that it reached a deal with Wagner “for the near future for training and transfer of experience between units of different branches of the armed forces.”

Under the deal to end Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short-lived mutiny, Wagner members were given the option of going to Belarus. When the agreement was first reached, media reports said that Prigozhin would live in exile in Belarus, but he has since returned to Russia, including for a June 29 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

Moscow has shared little detail about the Putin-Prigozhin meeting, which also involved Wagner commanders. Putin said in a recent interview that during the meeting, he told the Wagner fighters that they could continue operating in Ukraine under the leadership of their battlefield commander, Andrey Trochev, but Prigozhin refused the offer.

“All of them could gather in one place and continue to serve,” Putin told the newspaper Kommersant. “And nothing would change for them. They would be led by the same person who had been their actual commander this entire time.”

Putin said the Wagner commanders appeared to approve of the idea, but Prigozhin said no. “A lot of them nodded their heads when I said this. But Prigozhin, who was sitting in front of them and didn’t see [their reaction], said: ‘No, the guys won’t agree with that decision.'”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.