Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has sent the Baltic countries into panic by inviting the notorious Wagner Group to train its military. This comes just days after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary group, took exile in Belarus after striking a deal with Russia following an attempted coup.
The Wagner group took refuge in Belarus to escape prosecution in Russia. Now, Lukashenko is trying to reap the benefits of playing an active role in cooling down the tension between the Kremlin and mercenary group, wherein its members were given the options to sign up with the Russian military or law enforcement agencies, or return to their families, or go to Belarus. He wants the Wagner Group to train the Belarusian military.
But this has neighboring Baltic countries in panic. Edgars Rinkevics and Gabrielius Landsbergis, the respective foreign ministers of Latvia and Lithuania, expressed concerns about the growing threat to security in the region. Rinkevics believes the Wagner Group in Belarus would pose a new security challenge for the Baltic States and Poland. The Latvian minister said it would be up to NATO and the European Union to assess the situation for regional security.
He suggested a new type of sanctions against Belarus, like those against Russia. Rinkevics said Europe was right in regarding the Wagner mutiny as an internal Russian affair and being cautious. However, he added that now it’s different as the notorious mercenary group poses as risk to regional security.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda expressed extreme concern about Belarus. He said the Wagner group members “or serial killers as I call them”, could turn against them. Nauseda added that no one knows when this could happen. Landsbergis said the speed at which the Wagner Group advanced on Moscow shows for itself that Baltic countries should be militarily strengthened. He believes it would take the mercenary group just 8 to 10 hours to be positioned somewhere in Belarus close to Lithuania. The foreign minister said Baltic region’s defense should be taken seriously.
But Lukashenko, in his speech on Friday, said he was “not afraid” of the Wagner Group. He claimed to have known the members for a long time. The Belarusian President said members of this mercenary group fought all over the world to establish a normal civilization, but the West hates them. He warned this could evolve into a world-scale military-political crisis. Lukanshenko believes another world war is in the making and hammered the Western countries for not seeing the need to resolve the issue through dialogue. He also accused Europe and the U.S. of arming Poland and using it as a proxy training ground to use it for Ukraine’s benefit at the cost of Belarus and Russia.