Wagner's presence in Belarus raises hybrid warfare threat - Latvian president in Vilnius

  • 2023-07-19
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The presence of the Wagner mercenary group in Belarus raises the risk of the use of hybrid warfare methods, including the infiltration of mercenaries among illegal migrants, Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics said in Vilnius on Wednesday.

"We can't rule out scenarios of some kind of hybrid warfare, like using – and we know that both of our countries, Latvia and Lithuania, are affected by the Lukashenko regime –migration as a weapon to try to infiltrate mercenaries and use them also in this hybrid warfare. All these kind of scenarios should be taken into account," the Latvian leader said.

"I think we also need to take the latest information about mercenaries being transported and arriving in Belarus seriously, and we need to be prepared for different scenarios," he added.

However, the Latvian leader told the joint press conference with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda that he had no evidence of any specific threat that the Wagner movement in Belarus would pose to Latvia.

For his part, Nauseda said the reasons why Wagner movement in Belarus was currently taking place were irrelevant as their objectives might change.

"We often speak about whether they can be directed one way or the other. This is not essential because the plans can change at any time and the very fact that these groups are so close to our borders, to the Latvian and Lithuanian borders, this poses an additional threat," the Lithuanian leader said.

The independent monitoring group Belaruski Hajun, which tracks the movements of armed forces in Belarus, has been reporting since weekend about Wagner mercenaries, who have agreed to move to Belarus following a failed mutiny, arriving in this Eastern European country that borders both Lithuania and Russia.

Belarus’ authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered a deal that ended last month's rebellion launched by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, has said that his country's military could benefit from the mercenaries' combat experience.

"We will take additional security measures if we see that additional factors emerge or if the number of fighters in Belarus continues to grow, so that it is definitely a hotbed of insecurity," Nauseda said.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told BNS on Monday that arrival of some fighters from the Russian mercenary force Wagner in Belarus does not fundamentally change the security situation in the region.