RIGA - For the time being, the presence of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, and possibly also his associates in Belarus does not pose a major threat to Latvia, Juris Maklakovs, former commander of the Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF), told LETA.
He explained that Prigozhin had not arrived in Belarus with all his fighters, but only with some of his closest associates who could face criminal prosecution in Russia for what they had done by staging an armed mutiny.
The former NAF commander estimated that the leader of the Belarusian regime, Alexander Lukashenko, will control these people, but what will happen in the future is an open question. It is unclear whether Prigozhin will be able to "settle in Belarus", relocate and establish larger units of his own there.
According to Maklakovs, this will take time - at least six months, a year. Moreover, it will be quite difficult to do so because Russia will control the mercenaries and will not allow them to move freely.
"There are fears that provocations could take place as the NATO Summit in Vilnius approaches. Yes, provocations can happen, but I don't think they will be related to Prigozhin and his people, but to the Russian or Belarusian military structures. They could test Latvian airspace and the border," said the former NAF commander.
Maklakovs noted that for the duration of the summit it is necessary to reinforce border security, increase combat readiness and do everything to prevent this from happening.