Wagner trains soldiers in Belarus after foiled mutiny in Russia

The Belarusian defence ministry says the Russian mercenary group is working with its troops near the town of Asipovichy.

Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group stand guard in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023
Fighters with the Wagner mercenary group stand guard on a street near the headquarters of Russia's Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don on June 24, 2023, during their mutiny [File: Stringer/Reuters]

Belarus says it has reached an agreement with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to train its soldiers after Wagner’s leader and fighters staged a brief mutiny last month against the Kremlin’s military leadership.

The Belarusian defence ministry said in a statement on Friday that it had developed a roadmap with the Wagner Group’s management “for the near future for training and transfer of experience between units of different branches of the armed forces”.

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Before its mutiny, Wagner had played a key role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, which is grinding through its 17th month.

The ministry did not say how many Wagner fighters were in Belarus or specify if more would follow but added it would continue to keep the public informed “about the upcoming work”.

It also released a video showing Wagner fighters instructing Belarusian soldiers at a military range near the town of Asipovichy, about 90km (56 miles) southeast of the capital, Minsk.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko helped broker a deal to end Wagner’s short-lived rebellion on June 23-24 when the group took control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and marched towards Moscow, shooting down a number of Russian military helicopters and killing their pilots.

Under the deal, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin stood down his mercenaries in exchange for Russia dropping mutiny charges.

Prigozhin has not been seen in public since leaving Rostov on June 24.

The Kremlin has confirmed but has given few details about a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prigozhin and other Wagner commanders five days after the mutiny.

In an interview published on Thursday evening, Putin said he had offered a way forward for Wagner fighters.

“They could all gather in one place and continue to serve,” Putin was quoted as saying by Kommersant . “Nothing would have changed for them. They would have been led by the same person, who was their real commander all this time.”

Putin said many Wagner troops nodded in approval at the proposal, but Prigozhin, who was sitting in front and did not see their reactions, quickly rejected it, responding, “The boys won’t agree with such a decision.”

Wagner, which recruited extensively from Russian prisons, had operated in the shadows for years.

It came into the spotlight during fighting in Ukraine despite the fact that private military companies are illegal in Russia.

Putin, who previously denied any links between the Russian government and Wagner, acknowledged after the mutiny that Prigozhin’s company has received billions of dollars from the state.

He noted that investigators would probe whether any of the funds had been stolen, a warning to Prigozhin that he could face financial charges.

Source: News Agencies