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    Polish and Lithuanian Leaders Alarmed by Presence of Wagner Group Mercenaries in Belarus

    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has revealed that approximately 4,000 mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a Russian private military organization, are currently situated within Belarus. During a meeting on Thursday, Morawiecki joined forces with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in the Suwalki Gap, a strategically significant area between Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. This location has witnessed recent movement of Wagner Group fighters.

    The two leaders engaged in discussions regarding the concerns posed by the presence of Russian mercenaries in Belarus, among other pressing matters. Addressing the press alongside Nauseda, Morawiecki stated, “Based on our intelligence, we estimate around 4,000 of these mercenaries to be present within Belarus. According to information shared by President Nauseda, the number may be slightly higher.”

    Morawiecki asserted that Russia’s deployment of Wagner fighters serves as a testing ground for gauging Poland’s and its allies’ reactions. He labeled the Wagner Group as highly perilous, emphasizing their role in destabilizing NATO’s eastern flank and branding them a genuine threat.

    Nauseda echoed Morawiecki’s apprehensions about the Wagner fighters, expressing concerns that this military contingent within Belarus could tempt President Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin to exploit them for provoking NATO member countries. Nauseda even proposed the possibility of shutting the Belarusian border, a move requiring coordination with Poland and Latvia, to counter such threats.

    Both leaders concurred on the critical importance of the Suwalki Gap, which Nauseda identified as susceptible to provocations by Belarusian and Russian entities. Notably, the data on the number of Wagner fighters within Belarus presented by both sides closely aligned. Nauseda underlined, “The Wagner Group has amassed over 4,000 personnel in Belarus.”

    The Wagner Group’s increased presence within Belarus follows a failed mutiny against Russian authorities in late June. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko intervened in negotiations between Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Subsequently, Lukashenko extended refuge to Prigozhin and his mercenaries within Belarus.

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