A group of European Union (EU) nations bordering Belarus, including Poland and the Baltic countries, have demanded that the Belarusian government expel the Russian private military company known as the Wagner Group. These nations are also calling for the repatriation of illegal migrants who are allegedly massing at the Belarusian border.
During a joint press conference on Monday, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski, along with his counterparts from Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, stated that if a “critical incident” were to occur at the border, their countries would immediately shut their borders with Belarus. Kaminski described the Wagner Group as an “extremely dangerous” and “demoralized” force capable of anything.
The countries issued a demand to the authorities in Minsk, stating, “We demand that the Wagner Group immediately leave the territory of Belarus and that illegal migrants immediately leave the border area and are sent back to their home countries.”
Poland has repeatedly accused Belarus of facilitating illegal migration, accusing them of intentionally directing the flow of people from the Middle East and Africa into the EU. According to the Polish border guard, around 19,000 migrants have attempted to enter Poland from Belarus this year, compared to 16,000 in the entirety of 2022. Kaminski expressed concerns about the escalating situation, stating that they have been dealing with attempts by migrants to illegally cross the border for several months.
The demand to expel the Wagner Group comes in the wake of the death of the group’s leader, Evgeny Prigozhin, in a plane crash in Russia’s Tver Region last week. Several other senior members of the private military company were also killed in the incident. So far, the Belarusian government has not responded to the demands put forth by Poland and the Baltic states.
The Wagner Group was redeployed to Belarus after its involvement in a short-lived insurrection in Russia in late June. The presence of the group in Belarus has contributed to the long-standing tensions between Minsk and Warsaw. Poland has claimed that the Wagner Group is actively operating along the border and engaging in “hybrid warfare” against them. However, the Belarusian government has dismissed these allegations. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko even went as far as to accuse Warsaw of having gone mad with the speculation surrounding the Wagner Group.
It remains to be seen how Minsk will respond to the demands from Poland and the Baltic countries. The situation at the Belarusian border continues to evolve, with concerns escalating over illegal migration and the presence of the Wagner Group. The EU nations involved are prepared to take immediate action to retaliate if a critical incident occurs, signaling the gravity of the situation. All eyes are now on Minsk as the international community waits for a response.