Belarusian authorities said they detained dozens of Russian private military contractors two days before the vote of the President of Belarus, in a sign of increasing tension between the two neighbors.
The authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, 65, who is seeking a sixth term in office in an August 9 vote, has repeatedly accused Russia of forcing Belarus to leave post-Soviet independence Is trying During his 26-year rule, Lukashenko has relied on Russian subsidies and political support, but has fiercely opposed Moscow’s efforts to gain control of the country’s economic wealth.
The arrest of dozens of Russians accused of planning to destabilize Belarus during the election campaign brings political tension between countries to a new height. Some observers saw the move as a campaign stunt by Lukashenko.
Belta’s state news agency Belta said that 32 members of Russia’s Wagner private military company were detained overnight by the Swat team of the Belarusian State Security Committee in a sanatorium outside Minsk, still known as the Soviet-era. Is known. Another man was detained in the south of the country, Belta said, who published a list of Russians taken into custody.
Yulia Goncharova, spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, Belarus’s top investigative agency, confirmed the detentions, but made no further comment.
Lukashenko called his Security Council meeting and directed the KGB chief to ask Russia for an official explanation. “The Russian structures concerned are required to immediately explain what is happening,” he said.
The Russian Embassy in Belarus did not immediately comment on the report, saying that it had not obtained official information about the sanctions from Belarusian authorities.
Belta said that Belarusian law enforcement agencies were working on a tip that reached more than 200 militants in Belarus on a mission to destabilize the country during the election campaign.
An independent Minsk-based military expert, Alexander Alesin, said that Belarus had long provided a transit corridor for sensitive Russian operations abroad.
“The Russians have used Belarus for many years to deploy special troops to other countries,” Alessin said. “Belarusian security agencies knew all about it and until recently they offered aid and assistance to the Russians.”
A Wagner company linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman fired by the US for mediating the 2016 presidential election, has allegedly deployed hundreds of military contractors in Syria and Libya.
Alessin said the approach is part of Lukashenko’s efforts to garner support before the votes.
“Authorities are using Wagner members to intimidate people before the vote by inventing a thriller about Russian terrorists,” Allicin said. “The footage of Detention sounds silly: If the 33 Wagner people were actually planning riots, they wouldn’t have worn war fats and T-shirts with the word ‘Russia’ all in one place.”
He said that the Belarusian leader wanted to vent his anger with the Kremlin: “Along with the spies, Lukashenko also wants to show Russia its place as relations with the Kremlin deteriorate after Russia drastically cuts its subsidies. . “
The former state farm director, Lukashenko, has ruled the former Soviet nation with 9.5 million iron hands, cracking down on dissent and independent media and extending his rule through votes while the West has criticized the rigging.
It is expected to win re-election on 9 August, despite its rule with public fatigue and a wave of opposition to a painful economic decline from the coronovirus epidemic.