Authorities officers from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia demanded on Monday that Belarus expel the Russian mercenary group Wagner from its territory, amid heightened tensions associated to Russia’s warfare in Ukraine.
The 4 nations — that are all NATO members and, apart from Estonia, share a border with Belarus — stated in a statement that the presence of Wagner fighters posed a risk to their territorial integrity.
Poland and Lithuania already closed a number of border checkpoints in current months, citing safety issues. Talking at a information convention in Warsaw along with his counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Poland’s inside minister, Mariusz Kaminski, said that the 4 nations would shutter all their border crossings with Belarus “if there’s a important incident.”
The officers’ feedback got here only a day after Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the chief of Wagner, was confirmed dead, plunging the mercenary group into an uncertain future. The fighters relocated to Belarus after Mr. Prigozhin staged a short-lived mutiny in opposition to Russia’s navy management in June.
Belarus’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, supplied exile to Mr. Prigozhin and his forces beneath a deal that ended the rise up.
Earlier this month, leaders of Poland and Lithuania warned in opposition to “provocations” and “sabotage actions” by the Wagner forces. And Poland — the place the nationalist governing occasion, Regulation and Justice, has tried to portray itself as tough on national security forward of a normal election in October — sent an additional 2,000 troops to strengthen its border with Belarus.
The loss of life of Mr. Prigozhin has solely elevated the uncertainty over the way forward for Wagner, as Western officers say the Kremlin is contemplating methods to bring it under more direct control whereas retaining its combating energy.
In current weeks, among the Wagner troops stationed in Belarus — which numbered at the very least 4,000, in keeping with Polish authorities — had been reported to have left the nation over low pay. However their whereabouts have been unclear, elevating issues amongst Western nations.
Border tensions with Belarus predate the Ukraine invasion, significantly on the problem of migrant crossings, which was talked about within the joint assertion. In 2021, Polish and European authorities accused Mr. Lukashenko of luring migrants from the Center East and Africa with flights and visas after which pushing them into Poland so as to destabilize the nation and achieve diplomatic leverage. In response, Poland built an 18-foot razor-wire-topped wall along 115 miles of the border.