Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday ordered security to be beefed up at his country’s border with Belarus, where fighters from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner have been offered exile.
Following Wagner’s short-lived mutiny against Moscow last week, the Kremlin gave fighters from the private army the choice of signing contracts with the Russian defence ministry, returning to civilian life or going into exile in Belarus, whose authoritarian leader is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelensky said he had been informed on Friday of the situation in Belarus by the Ukrainian intelligence service GUR, foreign intelligence services and border guards.
“By the decision of the Stavka (chief of staff), Commander-in-Chief (Valery) Zaluzhny and General (Sergey) Nayev were instructed to strengthen the northern direction in order to guarantee peace. There are appropriate deadlines,” the Ukraine leader said in a video posted on Telegram.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko offered Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin refuge after he ended the armed rebellion a week ago that posed the greatest challenge yet to Putin’s rule in Russia
Lukashenko — who has supported Putin throughout the war against Ukraine and allowed Russian troops to be stationed in Belarus, although his own forces have not participated directly in the conflict — said this week his army would benefit from the combat “experience” of Wagner commanders.
At the same time, he downplayed the activities the mercenaries will be authorised to carry out in the country.
Ukraine has on several occasions voiced fears of an attack launched from Belarusian soil