The mercenaries have brought with them around 700 vehicles and construction equipment, indicating it’s unlikely to prove a temporary stay (Picture: AP)
Roughly 3,500 Wagner mercenaries have arrived in Belarus since the group’s rebellion earlier in June.
Belaruski Hajun, an activist organisation monitoring troop movements in the country, estimates between 3,450 and 3,650 private military contractors have set up at a camp near Asipovichy, about 140 miles north of the border with Ukraine.
The monitoring group added satellite images show the troops have brought roughly 700 vehicles and construction equipment with them, suggesting their settling close to the town is unlikely to be merely temporary.
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko played a central role in quelling the Wagner uprising last month, brokering a deal between Putin and the group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin that saw Wagner halt its march just short of Moscow and allowed Prigozhin to leave for Belarus.
The Wagner chief had described his ‘march of justice’ as part of an effort to oust key members of Russia’s top brass amid military failings in Ukraine.
His troops met with little pushback from the Russian military as they marched deep into the country, downing six military helicopters and killing a number of troops in the process.
At the time, the short-lived coup was widely considered the most grievous threat to Putin’s power of his 23-year-rule.
Belarusian soldiers and Wagner mercenaries have also been conducting manoeuvres near the Polish border (Picture: AP)
Mr Lukashenko was instrumental in brokering the deal that saw Mr Prigozhin call off his rebellion (Picture: AP)
The Russian leader has responded with an ongoing purge of key military and security officials in an apparent attempt to stamp out even the slightest sign of dissent.
Mr Prigozhin’s exact whereabouts remained unknown for some time. A video recently surfaced on Telegram appearing to show him addressing Wagner mercenaries in Belarus, and a real estate company headquartered in Asipovichy was recently registered in his name.
Local officials told press on Monday the mercenaries have also been working with Belarusian troops at training grounds near the Polish border.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry said in a statement: ‘Wagner fighters who have really been in the heat of combat are passing on valuable information and experience to our servicemen.’
Mr Prigozhin’s exact whereabouts remained unknown for some time until Belarusian press reported he’d registered a company near the town where his mercenaries have settled (Picture: AP)
It followed after Mr Lukashenko told the Russian president at a meeting on Sunday that Wagner troops were causing him distress by agitating for ‘an excursion’ into Poland, though his remarks have been dismissed by international security experts.
The American Institute for the Study of War said shortly after Mr Lukashenko’s comments were reported: ‘There is no indication that Wagner fighters in Belarus have the heavy weaponry necessary to mount a serious offensive against Ukraine or Poland without significant rearmament.’
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