Espreso. Global

Wagner PMC members in Belarus receive passports with changed surnames

29 August, 2023 Tuesday

Over the past month, Belarus' Interior Ministry has been issuing passports to Wagner PMC members, but under different names. This situation may be linked to potential planning of subversive activities, including terrorist acts

Pavel Latushka, and Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, shared this information during an interview on Monday.

Latushka stated, "We have confirmed information that Wagner Group members are receiving legitimate Belarusian passports with altered names and surnames. This enables them to potentially enter European Union countries through border checkpoints."

According to the Belarusian opposition figure, these passports might be arranged by the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs with the intention of orchestrating subversive actions, including terrorist acts. When asked about the scale of this operation, he was unable to provide an exact count of documents involved. He did note that, as per his information, this passport issuance has been ongoing for a month.

Latushka pointed out that, according to his sources, there are still several thousand Wagner PMC members in Belarus. He estimated that while Alexander Lukashenko aims to keep them within the country, financial constraints prevent maintaining a larger contingent of Wagner's mercenaries. Some of these individuals are likely to proceed to Africa, while others will likely sign contracts with Russia's Ministry of Defense, be discharged from service, or continue staying in Belarus.

"As of now, a few hundred individuals have already signed agreements with Belarus's Ministry of Defense, ensuring they will remain in the country. Alternatively, they might join Belarusian armed forces' special operations units, potentially becoming involved in future border-related challenges. This includes cooperating with illegal migrants who attempt daily border crossings into Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia," Latushka stated.

Wagner PMC in Belarus and Prigozhin’s plane crash

After the leader of the Wagner PMC, Prigozhin, rebelled in late June, the Kremlin announced that mercenaries were being sent to Belarus.

On June 27, Belarus' self-proclaimed president, Lukashenko, confirmed Yevgeny Prigozhin's arrival in the country along with Wagner PMC members. 

Later, on July 23, self-appointed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko announced the desire of the mercenaries from the Russian Wagner PMC to "go on an excursion" to Poland. The same day, it was reported that the tenth column of Wagner's mercenaries, which included at least ten pieces of equipment, had arrived in Belarus.

However, experts at the Institute for the Study of War stated that there's no evidence that the Wagner in Belarus possessed the heavy weaponry required for a significant attack on Ukraine or Poland.

On July 29, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that more than 100 Wagner fighters had gone to the Suwalki corridor. This prompted concerns in Poland and Lithuania, with both countries considering border closures due to the presence of Wagner PMC mercenaries.

On July 31, it became known that the Wagner PMC had suspended the work of its regional recruitment centers "indefinitely." And Prigozhin revoked the vacations of employees and ordered them to arrive in Belarus by August 5.

On August 3, Wagner PMC members were positioned near Lithuania's border, in the city of Grodno, causing concerns for Lithuania's president, Gitanas Nauseda.

Subsequently, on August 4, Lithuania decided to close two out of six border checkpoints with Belarus to reduce potential risks.

Recognizing the situation's volatility, Polish Minister of Defense Mariusz Blaszczak approved the strengthening of the Belarusian border with additional troops on August 8.

On the same day, the head of Lithuania's State Border Service reported the tense yet manageable situation near Belarus' border, with the consideration of increased law enforcement presence due to potential provocations.

By August 16, Lithuania's former Defense Minister expressed concerns that Wagner in Belarus could engage in provocations along the Lithuanian border.

Later, on August 23, an Embraer business jet owned by Prigozhin crashed in Russia's Tver region, resulting in 10 known casualties, including the leader of Wagner PMC.

The Institute for the Study of War suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin might have ordered Prigozhin's assassination to regain control and seek vengeance.

Despite this incident, on August 25, Belarus' Lukashenko declared that Wagner PMC mercenaries would continue to operate within the country, even in light of Prigozhin's presumed death.

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